METAL MANIACS zine (by Nathan T Birk - Terrorizer)


“Black metal” or no, it doesn’t get any more enigmatic and idiosyncratic as Lugubrum. Like the unholy afterbirth of The Birthday Party, Belketre, and Autopsy – salaciously spawned in Darkthrone’s classic Creative Studios, natch – for more than a decade these Belgian necro-ne’erdowells have defied all odds, all idioms and anything approaching a “rule,” basically any sense of “sanity” and instead instituted their own version/vision of “cult.” And it’s paid off in spades, if not immediate comprehension and subsequent acclaim.

Not surprisingly, it ain’t getting any easier with Lugubrum’s eighth and latest album, Heilige Dwazen. Picking up the Party-rockin’ skronk ‘n’ swing of the preceding De Vette Cuecken and taking it deeper, more cantankerously into its kraut-rockin’ roots – Damo Suzuki-era Can reconfigured as brown-metal assault, anyone? – with freeform sax-blow atop the copious crust, Heilige Dwazen is a rough ‘n’ very tumble affair. And yet, there’s a perverse sense of playfulness equally at work here. Songs speed up and slow down teasingly, not so much out of indecision or incompetence but rather out of instinct and arrogance; the recording’s raw yet clear, its practitioners drunk on their own power (and much else) yet completely functional all the same; lyrics venture further into the absurd – titles like “The Kiss on the Anus” and “We Slyly Sucked on Stolen Bread” should say enough, and then some – while painting a most (dementedly) carnivalesque tapestry; and there’s even comparatively, er, tender moments where the guitars rein in all clean ‘n’ reverbed. Gasp!

“For me, it’s still very much a black metal album, but some people might object to this,” alleges founding guitarist Midgaars about LP#8. “I think De Totem was the ultimate Boersk Blek Metle experience, but you’ll still find a lot of these elements on Heilige Dwazen. In the end, labels are there for the people who want to sell CDs and make money. The people who buy our stuff don’t really care; they know what Lugubrum stands for by now. Throughout Lugubrum’s history, there’ve been a couple of ‘style periods,’ much like the stages of a painter’s development. Heilige Dwazen is like a subtle mix of these, with the addition of a new color.”

As for that self-appointed “Boersk Blek Metle” demi-tag, no doubt bolstered by Midgaars’ frequent use of banjo(!), vocalist Barditus delves deeper: “This is how we've been describing our music since De Totem album. Until last year, the Lugubrum headquarters – the place used for rehearsing, recording, drinking, driveling, and freaking out in general – were situated in Lovendegem, a quite rural town near Ghent. ‘Boersk’ can be roughly translated as ‘black metal for farmers,’ the main target group being smutty people digging in the soil all day for relatively no use at all, reeking of manure and such...but, of course, also for other freaks and metalheads. I have this perverted idea spinning around in my brain of even the Dalai Lama adoring Lugubrum, and we being the first ever to get the lad seriously drunk!”

But what about those ol' prospector outfits, from that De Totem era? Like, what (absurd) outfits are the Lugubrum lads sporting these days – are pirate suits not too far off on the horizon?

“That was a totally crazed photo session,” assures Barditus. “In fact, it was for the re-release of De Totem, this time with a thicker, heavier sound and two bonus-tracks. But when we were doing this, it seemed perfectly normal for us to do; we just dug up some old clothes and took out the kitchenware, as you can see in those pictures. We'll pass on the pirate suits, though. Things can't become too funny – that's not the intention.”

“This past winter we were donning the ol’ 40-day-old underwear ‘n’ chains,” chuckles Midgaars in response to my (absurd) query, “nothing fancy…. What you call ‘prospector’ is actually more ‘Boer’-style wear. When we were originally making De Totem, Boersk Blek Metle was at its peak, and consequently I was heavily inspired by the ultimate farmer battle: the Anglo-Boer war [1899-1902], in particular the South African farmers – like me, of Dutch origin – fronted by Paul Kruger, who gave the English such a hard time with their guerilla tactics and Mauser Mod 96 rifles. Another connection is Kruger export beer, one of our favorites. We never got round to adding this element the first time, so when we did the re-release I thought these pics would be a nice touch. By the way, these were the last pictures of us ever taken on our land in Lovendegem and feature our joined weapon collections.”

Back to Heilige Dwazen, and deeper into the wonderful(ly absurd) world Lugubrum inhabits. Compared to its not-inconsiderable predecessor, the swampy ‘n’ shambling De Vette Cuecken, Lugubrum’s latest LP finds the saxophone receiving more emphasis this time, and all for the better – and above all, all the more out there.

“Bhodidharma cannot be reined,” Midgaars says of the (skronking) saxophonist, “he’s chaos…it’s hard enough to get him to leave his mountain and goat farm! We just jam together for a bit, and then we place a mic in front of him. Most of the parts were done in one take. This is our preferred way of working, anyway, except Bhodi is just a genius. It’s like he’s always…out there…”

Musically, then, how much more OUT THERE can Lugubrum get?

“Let me give you an example of how we work,” offers the six-stringer. “The other week we were trying some new stuff, and I proposed to play some slower stuff based on improvisation. Then Barditus says he wants do make a really fast, blasting song with lots of structure. [Drummer] Svein says he doesn’t care. So, we just start jamming and came up with this Neil Young-type riff that works really well! You just cannot predict these things, so it’s best not to try. Lugubrum is a combination of spontaneity, laziness, and a hint of genius/madness.”

That about sums up Lugubrum better than I have in the past 1000 words. All things considered, though, with the lustily spoken intro all the way through to the alternately aggravating/whimsical ambient outro, one could successfully argue that Heilige Dwazen is the most total Lugubrum experience yet – and yes, the filthiest jewel in an already well-crudded-up crown.

“The outro’s great, isn’t it?” beams Midgaars. “Svein actually made that to annoy the crowd before a live performance, but we’ve become addicted to it. I can just picture little naked midgets dancing to this…. The intro was read by my old friend Slosse, a bearded pirate and well-known holy fool here in Ghent; some inspiration for the lyrics came from his adventures. A total Lugubrum experience would be to listen to all the albums in one sitting, but this would be very likely too much even for those without a pacemaker, so I guess Heilige Dwazen is probably the next best thing.”

From the Black Legions as mischievous hicks of De Totem and Al-Ghemist to the increasingly Autopsied smoke ‘n’ stumble of Bruyne Troon to the King-Ink-feels-like-a-bug coupling of career highpoints De Vette Cuecken and especially Heilige Dwazen – and that’s not accounting for the omnipresent scat fascinations or the, um, “outfits” or any of the other sundry non-sequiturs orbiting around its (brown) world – Lugubrum has built up a body of work that defies convention and definition, that challenges and chortles in equal measures, that’s just fucking ace any way you look at it, BM be damned. And although Lugubrum’s doubtlessly a stratifying lot, it’s downright criminal these Belgians don’t carry more truck with the more-cult-than-thou crowd and certainly beyond. Thankfully, the band’s hardly concerned with such trivialities.

“I really don’t care,” Midgaars shrugs in conclusion. “What’s important is that more and more people are getting to know us, and they either love us or hate us. These are people from all over the world from various musical and ethnical backgrounds. This I find heartwarming, that for instance you can go to a scrap-metal dealer in Calcutta where these eight-year-old kids are taking apart old cars in hazardous working conditions, while from a window next door you could hear someone playing Bruyne Troon. Imagine the effect a couple of minutes of Lugubrum can have on a child! I truly think the perversion will safeguard it against growing up braindead and playing shit music or working in a bank. Imagine this effect worldwide – I’m talking about a whole new generation of highly intelligent individuals. Pissed out of their brains, of course, but still…. I like kids, I understand where they’re coming from. Too bad they cannot hold their beer. Monkeys can – trained, private monkeys. Now there’s an investment for ‘ya! Carnival music is nice….”

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