Thursday, 9 December 2010


"The 'Black Metal band' should exist only as an attempt to conjure up some fraction of it, otherwise said band should not exist at all."
Andrew Curtis-Brignell, Cäina

Andrew Curtis-Brignell has been releasing increasingly complex and singularly minded albums as Cäina since 2004; from the ragged, harsh early demos through 2006's full length Some People Fall, to the more diverse influences and elaborate compositions of Temporary Antennae; “The way I personally define Black Metal has shifted and developed over time. Ultimately my preferred definition is largely attitudinal or atmospheric rather than musical/generic, and that's purely because it's the most utilitarian way of thinking about it. There are often vast stylistic chasms separating many of the bands that are comfortably tagged as Black Metal, far more so than within any other genre of metal, so it only really makes sense to me to consider Black Metal as a mode of thinking or feeling rather than a specific way of playing your guitar or using your voice.”

There are no other bands quite like him in the UK at present; there are bands that are marrying post rock elements to their Black Metal, but Cäina's uniquely emotionally provocative combination of sounds sees him remain starkly isolated from everyone else around him. The suggestions of a coherent sound that a scene might develop around fills him with revulsion; If a group of bands from a small group of islands decide to all sound like each other, I would question the need for any of them. Individual strength of idea and execution is the only creative currency that means anything nowadays – to paraphrase Morrissey, The Scene is Dead. As a small child, the idea of being in the Cubs or Scouts filled me with revulsion. In the same way I would take no pleasure whatsoever in belonging to some Onanistic, self-congratulatory boy's club as an adult. To me, those who are proponents of 'metal warriors together against the world' sentiments (regardless of the scale, whether it be in a wider scene or in a cliquey branded 'Circle') are merely displaying herd weakness and do nothing except mark themselves out as ones to be avoided at all costs.”

Individual strength is something he possesses in abundance; there;s no greater conviction executed than on his recent 3-track EP, in which he talks of burying churches upside down; of reordering and redesigning the kinds of power that a black metal performer should be able to wield, the greater extent that their vision should be able to encompass. Of all the defamatory lyrics black metal has produced, none has had the imagination to twist a whole building round out of the earth and smash it; a strong metaphor for the approach of his music. “There are compositional stylistic markers and lyrical signifiers that are unique to Black Metal, but I think these are secondary to that Black Metal 'feeling'. Kids on forums may have the time (and short-sightedness) to endlessly debate whether such or such a band is BM, but for me if it has that 'feeling', it's Black Metal. Unfortunately that atmosphere, or attitude, or feeling, or however you want to say it, is quite hard to put one's finger on. Not wanting to be too pretentious, but for me, the Black Metal feeling is really that little stir of dark energy that wells up inside you under certain musical, ritual or artistic conditions. It should be added that almost none of the bands who could be said to belong to the genre actually manage to evoke this, but it's a bit of a Plato-nic thing, I think – the 'Black Metal band' should exist only as an attempt to conjure up some fraction of it, otherwise said band should not exist at all.

Considering the existence of Black Metal's direct relationship to environment is one of the foundational idelogies of the genre. One of the questions I am posing throughout this week is whether the British countryside is having a unique effect on the sounds being created, whether it is as conscious a creation for British artists as it was for the Scandinavians, and whether environment plays an integral part of the Black Metal sound and psyche: I'm wary of such generalisations, but I think the type of person who creates successful Black Metal is usually the type of person who would emotionally if not practically reject the homogeneity and claustrophobia of urban society and feel more kinship with the natural world, so in a way I suppose that would be an innate aspect. I certainly fit into that mode (even if I don't necessarily create successful Black Metal). Actually I've just moved out of an apartment in a large city to a house backing onto a national park, and I love it. The view out of my back window is about a foot of snow covering the hills and moors as far as the eye can see. The view from my front window is the village, and the road that leads to a larger town. I like the back window.”

Despite all suggestions to the contrary, Andy is not quite the loner that all this may mark him out to be. He has been recording new material with a group of disgustingly heavy and aggressive sounding US artists for his new album Hands That Pluck with a line-up involving Imperial (Krieg), Vermin (Revenge/Blood Revolt) and Rennie Resmini (Starkweather). Scheduled for release in the first part of 2011 on Profound Lore the sound will be a return to the rawer more primitive sound of his early days, with Andy affirming that “I'm never going to make another album under the Cäina name quite as soft'n'fluffy as Temporary Antennae.

With a return to an arguably less enlightened, yet equally transcendentally potentiated sound, does he feel that there is still an extra element of frisson that Black Metal is still capable of provoking, regardless of how many extra influences a band's sound involves; “Absolutely. However, as I get older I'm actually starting to reject a lot of more 'experimental' work, and gravitating back to my first love, primitive and primal stripped-back Black Metal. As I make a rather bastardised form of BM myself I never really listened to a lot of the former anyway – too much like a 'busman's holiday' – but to be honest I think the last time I genuinely connected with another genre-cocktail band was a good couple of years ago. It's like alcohol. When I was growing up, I wanted outlandish, disguised booze (... and ... with a ... mixer), and lots of it. Nowadays I want a scotch on the rocks once in a while, and that's it.”

Here's to a fiercely advancing future of whiskey fuelled feral buzz from the hands of this man.

Ten Went Up A River from Temporary Antennae


  1. That was both enlightening and inspiring. Some people have the sword but don't have the knowledge to wield it... this guy's sword is fucking big, heavy and sharp (in all the right places) and he definitely has the wisdom to swing it. One of the most exciting artists in underground music.

  2. I totally agree. Glad you appreciated it, thanks for reading.