Of Sickly Moons,Vampiric blood & Blacked Winter Bound Forests. [2014-05-22]
Fantome De Sang produce a darkly seared ‘n’ intense mixture of blacked harsh noise, bleak ambience & HNW, which is themed around the work of French underground black metal/ dark ambient collective Les Legions Noire. Behind the project is highly prolific Minneapolis based ambient and harsh noise wall artists Cory Strand- and as any long time & constant readers of M[m] will know we have a lot of time for the work of Mr Strand, and all the releases on his excellent label Altar Of Waste. But I think is fairly to say Fantome De Sang is one of the most consistent, rewarding & effective of his many projects- it also offers up one of the most compelling & re-playable takes on the whole blacked noise, or noise/blacked metal cross genre. Cory kindly agreed to give me an email interview to discussing this most intense, grim yet highly compelling project.
m[m]:Tell us a little bit about how the Fantome De Sang project first came about? And what’s the origin/ meaning behind the projects name?
Cory - I decided to start recording as Fantome De Sang around July 2013. I wanted to engage with black metal aesthetics in a more obscure manner than what I had been doing with Lindskold. I kind of felt I had backed myself into a corner with Lindskold and if I was going to move the project further it would mean getting more technical and closer to a real “band” sort of sound and at the time I desperately wanted to avoid that, mostly because I don’t think I’m particularly adept at writing black metal riffs. I also wanted to see if I could create something that sounded different than my other noise and ambient work, something darker and more heartless. I knew right away that I wanted to echo LLN a bit in what I was doing, so I chose what I thought was a sort of enigmatic name, something that evoked otherworldliness and violence. And obviously it had to be in French. It translates to something like “Ghost of Blood.”
m[m]:The projects sound/ image/ texts are very much influenced by French underground black metal/ dark ambient collective Les Legions Noire- how & when did you become aware of the collective? And is there any particular release of theirs that made you want to start the project up?
Cory-I’ve been listening to black metal for so long it’s difficult for me to pinpoint when I first became aware of LLN. Years and years ago, certainly-perhaps around 1999. I do recall that Mutiilation was the gateway, but what I’m doing with Fantome De Sang doesn’t have much in common with Mutiilation-the sound I’m emulating is more akin to Vlad Tepes, Moevot, Seviss-very, very rough and raw sounds. After Mutiilation led me to Drakkar, I heard the Vlad Tepes/Torgeist split and that really blew the door open-everything about the whole aura of that record appealed to me a lot. The gnarly, broken, desperate sound, the vague landscape photography, the secretive sort of feel about it. I do reference Mutiilation a bit in that Fantome De Sang tries to borrow some of the baroque and romantic atmospheres found on “Vampires of Black Imperial Blood,” but really I’m trying to fuse the ambient excursions of LLN to the severity of their black metal output, and the rougher sounds offered from the LLN projects is what I gravitate to. As far as the works that really inspire the project: Vlad Tepes’ “La Morte Luna” and Vermyapre Kommando’s demo, Seviss’ “Et Pleure Le Batard.” Moevot, certainly.
m[m]:Could you tell us a little bit about what equipment you use to create Fantome De Sang's mix of blacked noise & stark grey ambience?
Cory-Fantome De Sang uses lots of techniques that I employ in my other recordings and projects, but in Fantome I tend to just sort of throw them all in together to make giant maelstroms of noise. I utilize acoustic guitars, electric guitars with a variety of distortion pedals (though most of the time it’s an EQ’d DOD Death Metal pedal) and distortion emulators, a crappy little 15 watt Epiphone amplifier, a wide variety of pre-existing source recordings and field recordings, synthesizers, drum loops, and purposefully unprofessional recording techniques. Most of the real work is done via computer (all the layering and placements and mixing and such), but more and more I’ve been trying to utilize live instrumentation for Fantome De Sang, at least a little bit here and there. But it always get fed through the computer and fucked with in some way.
m[m]:When you first started the project you went down the anonymous route- what made you decide to reveal you were behind the project?
Cory-At first I wasn’t sure if there would be a Fantome De Sang album past the first; I never intended to say whether I was involved in the project or not. I wanted it to have the sort of mysterious ambiguity that LLN had. At the time I also worried that too many of Altar Of Waste’s releases were solo efforts by me, which was a pretty ridiculous worry that I’ve since dispensed with. But after “Maladif Lune” came out I got an email from Dustin Redington saying he wanted to release a Fantome album through Occult Supremacy and was wondering if I could put him in touch with the project. Dustin and I are good friends so at that point I decided to forego the conceit of anonymity and just say that yeah, it’s another one of my projects. Around that same time my friend Christopher Ropes of Nighttime In The Abyss was starting up his label/publishing house and I wanted to do something for him as well; it just didn’t make sense to try and uphold the idea of this mysterious entity. I work too fast to keep it up. The response to Fantome De Sang has been nothing but great; I don’t see any reason to hide from it.
m[m]:Fantome De Sang first release was the four CDR release Maladif Lune, which featured five slices of overloaded black metal influenced HNW/blacked noise, and one tracks worth of eerier & unsettling ambience. Could you tell us why you decided to make this first release such a lengthy set? And what do you see as this releases themes? Also as it was only ltd to ten copies do you hope to reissue the release at some point?
Cory-I think “Maladif Lune” is longer because it was the first. I wanted to make a “statement” sort of album for the debut, and since I wasn’t sure if there would be more recordings afterward, or if I would be as prolific with Fantome De Sang as I am with my other projects, I just made it large and immersive. As far as thematics, “Maladif Lune” is meant to evoke winter nights, vampirism, lycanthropy, paganism, and a revulsion for Christianity. I wanted it to have a very occult atmosphere as well as touch on some obvious black metal aesthetic concerns.
I haven’t done anything that long since because creating the Fantome De Sang records is pretty overwhelming. Compared to my other work they’re way more intense and putting them together wipes me out a little. I usually need to step away for a bit afterwards.
As far as reissuing it-the record sold out pretty quickly, but I haven’t had anyone ask me to re-release it yet. Generally, if I get enough people writing to me and asking about particular records, I will consider second runs. I usually try and add something when I do, though, to both differentiate it from the original and to make it more worthwhile for the completists. I’m not sure what that would be for “Maladif Lune” as I’m not sure I could add anything of worth to that record-it’s as it’s meant to be.
m[m]:The projects second release was 2013’s Dans La Nuit Vampirique, and this saw you shorten the tracks running length & focus on a slightly easier ( though still) intense sound- why did you decide to clean the projects sound up a bit & do you think you’ll ever return to the dense at times blacked walled noise attack of Maladif Lune?
-Listening to “Dans La Nuit Vampirique” again I can see what you’re saying, but there wasn’t any conscious effort to change the sound. The aural differences between Fantome De Sang albums is something that I can only really attribute to the inherent sounds of the source materials used on them, and that’s what I really love about manipulation as opposed to white noise generators and the like. I could use the exact same processes on every record I’ve made (I don’t though-that would be super boring!) and everything would still sound different to varying degrees, because it’s how you fuck around with your sources that dictates a record’s overall tone and feel. The shorter track lengths were just a question of practicality-Dustin wanted me to keep it to one disc. You know I love to do big, expansive, immersive records, but when I record for other labels they often ask me to keep it to a shorter length. I think in a lot of instances those constraints force me to get more creative, and I’m often very happy with the results.
Will I ever do another record like “Maladif Lune”? I don’t know. I’m not even sure if I could replicate that sound again! I don’t take any notes on setups and sources and whatnot when I record, I go where my instincts tell me to, so everything has a sort of loose, messy, spontaneous quality to it. I work so quickly that it just has to be that way-not a lot of second guessing or reflection, just trying to be in a moment. I feel I’ve done Fantome De Sang records that are as intense as “Maladif Lune,” but in different ways.
m[m]:Still on the subject of Dans La Nuit Vampirique, I felt this release had a very impressive bleak/ stark elemental or weather bound feel to many of the tracks textures- how difficult was it to mould your sonic elements into this sound pallet?
Cory-Again you’re right-there is definitely a suggestion of winter and extremity in that record. The images I had in my head were of deep winter nights in forgotten forests and the whispers of vampirism, fangs glinting in the moonlight, blood pools on the snow. Making sounds that suggested those images took some effort-it was sort of a question of finding the proper distortions and depth of tone, and all that stuff is accomplished via the computer, just trying different things to see if they work. Once I find whatever overall “sound” I’m going for, though, then it gets easier and it’s just a matter of crafting the pieces and putting them all together. And that album in particular I went with a more ”windblown” sort of sound-lots of echoes and delays and cavernous reverbs. Tons of that stuff.
m[m]::The project most recent release is Desespoir- the album features four tracks in all, one ambient track then two blacked noise track than one ambient track. This format suggests there might be some form of sonic story arch running through the release, is there & if so what is it?
Cory-There’s not a story per se, but it is very much a product of the terrible time I was having in life during its recording. Without delving into too much personal detail, those months when I was working on “Desespoir” were incredibly trying. I was having a very difficult time dealing with my anxieties and nervousness and I felt like I was removed from my own life, watching my body go through all these motions and not feeling connected to anyone or anything, like I was just away and lost in the ether. I was very much living the title of the record, and it was a scary, weird time that I am finally beginning to put past me. There have been times in my life when my depression just assaults me and it’s a really, truly shitty headspace to be in. I hope someday it won’t be with me anymore…though I feel more like Mark Kozelek in that I’ll never be able to get out from under the shadow of melancholy. It’s always going to be there, waiting for those times when it can blossom up in me. Working on music staves it off and gives me focus so I don’t end up dwelling in my own interiority. I think “Desespoir” has a very nervous and claustrophobic/oppressive atmosphere to it-it’s a very intense album. More high-pitched/”screams from the void” sorts of textures. It’s probably the coldest, most painfully austere record I’ve done as Fantome De Sang, and I really do like it, but it’s hard for me to listen to because I know the stresses it was born under. Having the ambient tracks on there allows for some sort of respite from the bludgeoning aspects of the album, although the big final ambient piece on “Desespoir” is pretty fucking isolationist. There isn’t a lot of comfort there. Also, it’s another nod to black metal aesthetics-intro and outro pieces.
m[m]::One of the most impressive tracks on Desespoir is “Noire Majeste De La Nuit D'Hiver”-which sees you bringing together ultra dense blacked noise textures, with chilling and atmospheric undertones- how difficult to get this balancing act of brutally & moodiness?
Cory-I love that track, too. It was sort of an experiment for me because I pushed everything into a higher pitch, which I don’t often do, but the result sounded so awesome and frigid and severe that I went with it. That track to me just sounds like being caught in the middle of a winter storm on an endless open hillside. Nowhere to go, no shelter, no hope-just an endless cascade of punishing whiteness, an inverted void. It’s meant to be numbing.
m[m]:Two of the tracks on Desespoir feature extremely bleak, stark yet intense drum elements- how did you go about capturing these? And did you digital alter them at tall?
Cory-The drums are drawn from a huge bank of drum patterns that I found online-I have something like 1000 different loops, so I can do a lot of different stuff. Working with the drum patterns is very new to me-I play drums myself but have no means to record them, and with the punishing tempos and repetition that I want it’s easier to use the loops-there’s no way I could play that stuff live and be that exact. The first album I used them on was “Devouement” and the response was really great, so I’ve kept it up. It makes Fantome De Sang seem a little more like a “proper” band and brings in another very distinctly black metal element to the sound. Since “Devouement” I’ve been using the drums pretty consistently-I love the sound and it seems to really up the intensity of the pieces. The only alterations I put the drums through is making them louder-I really love that blown-out, in the red sound. Sometimes I’ll up their tempos a bit if I need them faster, but usually it’s just pushing the volume.
m[m]::Please select four or five of your favourite Les Legions Noire releases/ tracks? And please explain why you’ve selected them?
Cory VLAD TEPES “Le Morte Luna”-my fave LLN release. It’s just a perfect record, from the super minimalist symbolic cover art to the sick guitar sound to the bitter, poisonous vocals. Everything makes sense and the whole thing just sounds diseased and ancient and drenched in malignancy, but there’s an epic and sort of romantic feel to it as well. It sounds of the forests and the hills. It’s very medieval.
MUTIILATION “Vampires of Black Imperial Blood”- As said, I take an enormous amount of inspiration from this record. It’s simply beautiful, dripping with a baroque and fading romanticism. Listening to this record to me really feels like you’re watching the decay of time from the vantage point of vampiric immortality. There’s a sense of tedium and sorrow buried beneath all the violence. It’s haunting and mesmerizing and clouded over with melancholic atmosphere.
SEVISS “Et Pleure Le Batard”- I love this record because it’s so much more straightforward, comparatively. The more brutal aspects of Fantome De Sang certainly have their root in this one. Far thrashier and chromatic but still sick, with that sort of diseased quality to it. It’s primitive and bludgeoning and just fucking barbaric. It has this thudding “dead” sort of sound to it, kind of like Gorgoroth’s early albums but more distant sounding. The vocals are amazing on this one too!
VERMYAPRE KOMMANDO “Vermyapre Kommando”: Again, it’s the shitty sound and incredible severity of this record that appeals to me. It’s totally unrelenting. The whole thing sounds like a big mess of chromatic death. Like Seviss, this is the more barbarous side of the LLN, but Vermyapre Kommando pushes that sound even further. This is a wipeout of a demo, pure holocausting destructionism.
m[m]:: What’s next for Fantome De Sang?
-There’s actually a good amount of upcoming work from Fantome De Sang. I just released splits with my other black metal inspired band, Lindskold, and Nightmare Castle, a few of which are still available through Altar Of Waste. I’m currently working on a new album that will be a collaborative effort with Christopher Ropes-he’s going to be adding vocals and lyrics to the palette, and I’m very eager to see how it turns out-I imagine it will be incredibly intense. I know last time you interviewed me I was hesitant about whether I’d do any live noise performances, but lately I’ve been wanting to see if I could put together a live band version of Fantome De Sang. I’d need to find a drummer that can just destroy, though, because the drum parts on Fantome records are pretty fucking demanding. It’d be really fun to play some of this stuff live though!
Also coming soon is a new double album on Occult Supremacy Productions, entitled “Une Obscurite Vampirique Dans Les Etoiles.” It’s a really raw and lofi mess of an album, totally immersive and epic. I’m really, really psyched about it and think it comes closest to capturing the sort of true LLN-type atmosphere I’ve been after with the project.
I’ve also been toying with the idea of doing an all synthesizer ambient album, sort of an echo of Moevot and Burzum. Maybe people would want a break from all the severity-but maybe not!
Thanks, Roger, for taking the time to speak with me again. I appreciate the continued support and interest.
Thanks to Cory for his time/efforts with the interview. The Fantome De Sang project doesn’t really have a dedicated webpage/ blog/ bandcamp page, but the project has a page on discog’s here (through this is far from a definitive listing of all the projects releases). Here's a link to Altar Of Waste's website, where a few Fantome De Sang releases have been put out on. Also in digital form there's the album Tourment Eternel dans le Cercle le Plus Bas, which is available to download from Batwings Creations here .