Interviews & Reviews

ZERO TOLERANCE zine (by Will Pinfold)

Some bands stamp their identity on a genre – Lugubrum invented one of their own. There may be something tongue-in-cheek about the band’s ‘brown metal’ stance, but there’s nothing laughable about the way Lugubrum have transcended musical boundaries to create a sometimes exotic musical melange like no other band in metal. With a typically wayward new album ready for release, Will Pinfold catches up with guitarist/songwriter Midgaars to discuss history, geography, politics and, um, the blues.

In a competition for the weirdest BM-related album ever released, chances are that Belgium’s Lugubrum would have at least a couple of entries. While mythical and historical themes are far from unusual in even the most orthodox of BM discographies, an album like 2008’s 'Albino De Congo' with its theme of Belgian colonialism, recorded in the Congo, literally and musically took metal to places it had never been before. With 'Face Lion, Face Oignon' the band looks east with a concept based around Napoleon Bonaparte’s ill-fated Palestine mission. The obvious question is why? Midgaars explains; “As a kid I already learned quite a bit about Bonaparte, my father is an authority on the subject and I followed him to museums and battlegrounds. As a teenager I chose to forget about it all, but a couple of years ago I started reading books again about Napoleon's life and campaigns. It makes perfect sense that it emerged in the Lugubrum world. The 'Syrian Expedition' caught my interest because it’s sort of a blueprint for Napoleon's entire career, not so well-known to most people, it was his first real failure and has some unbelievably absurd episodes and also some of the blackest pages in his biography.” A dominant western force becoming bogged down with difficulties in the Middle East is of course a theme which resonates with the current global situation, as Midgaars concurs. “History keeps repeating itself, that's why it's so fascinating.” A worthy subject, then – but for a band with a vision so wide-ranging in its influences isn’t the basic BM template underlying ‘brown metal’ a bit constrictive? “Barditus' vocals are a key ingredient to Lugubrum, using them in a different context would perhaps be interesting, but I don't know if it would work. On the other hand, stretching the boundaries of BM in the way we do puts us clearly on the map. When I'm tired of metal I will probably leave Lugubrum for what it is... but you never know with us.” Metal has always been less restrictive in its subject matter than most popular musical genres, but it’s fairly uncontroversial to point out that it does tend to focus on ‘the dark side’, an interesting point for a band like Lugubrum, since, although the history of Western Imperialism certainly has more than its fair share of grimness, it isn’t necessarily ‘dark’ in the usual melodramatic metal way. Does the band still have a normal metal audience, whatever that is? “I'm pretty sure we don't. The most ardent fans are eclectic people, who listen to everything. I have been introduced to some great music by fans who send me compilations. I find the colonial history of Congo pretty heavy stuff, the word ‘dark’ doesn't do it justice really. Same goes for Napoleon's campaigns. But they're not the usual subject matter I agree.”

Around the time of 'Albino...' Midgaars was quoted as saying that the band could record almost anywhere ‘except for a normal studio’ but this time round the band was less globe-trotting than their subject matter. “It was pretty relaxing, we used my old wine cellar. It's cool and small but just big enough for the four of us. We use it for rehearsals as well. Mostly I use it for vegetable storing. No blistering heat, angry crowds or diarrhoea this time. Mind you, the last time we recorded in a cellar (for 'Bruyne Troon') it was filled with a couple of inches of water/urine and Barditus tripped headfirst with the mic in his hands. Luckily he was simply too drunk to be electrocuted. That sort of stuff doesn’t happen anymore. We don’t have time to fuck about, so things are done with a certain amount of to-the-pointness.”

If there’s a thread of continuity through Lugubrum’s career, it’s a soulful, passionate quality somewhat different from the intensity of BM, but is the band still closer to black metal bands than to ‘experimental’ music of other types? “Musically I don’t feel close to anyone. I’ve never heard of a band who compares themselves to us either. I think for most fans we are something of a guilty pleasure, definitely not something to boast about. The ‘soul’ I can understand, because we are simply playing the blues, at various speeds. If you look at 'Face...', the album consists almost entirely of blues riffs. Still, people say it sounds like old Lugubrum, so maybe we’ve been playing blues all along.” Something Lugubrum does have in common with their more orthodox brethren is the lack of concern for what the public thinks of their music. But whereas your average corpse-painted goat-worshippers back it up with albums that fit comfortably within a genre blueprint, the average Lugubrum fan is more likely to be disappointed by a smudgy xerox of 'Transilvanian Hunger'. So are Lugubrum fans broad-minded enough to accept anything the band throws at them? “It seems like I care less with each album. What matters to me is that I enjoy playing the music, that’s the only way I can be motivated for playing live. This is just a bunch of guys enjoying themselves, others go fishing or play pool in a bar. The moment I'm not enjoying myself anymore I'll look for something else to do. I felt like this after 'Albino...', but after a while tunes started to appear in my head again, and whistling midgets, but that’s another matter.”