Bleakwood- ""A black flame which casts many and divergent shadows.
Updated: Aug 3, 2020
Dan Nahum - Creator; “Bleakwood goes back almost twenty years - I started composing demo material when I was in my late teens, a lot of which was never recorded. The material that appears on the 2008 demo was from the next phase of composition, when the material became less meandering and more streamlined. So the name was already an artefact of the band's history by the time any music was first presented to a listenership.''
Does the idea of the name come from your style of abrasive black metal?
''Not precisely. When I first started composing music for Bleakwood it was quite different - still abrasive, but more melodic and 'verdant'. The name Bleakwood seemed like just the right fit for the music, at that time. To me it's an archetypal black metal band name, and I enjoy that the music has evolved but the name still summons the original, solipsistic spirit of the band.''
“I've always been interested in a variety of music. Obviously black metal is a very self-encapsulated and encompassing artform; this is what Bleakwood is a vessel for. When I compose or play Bleakwood material I have a very specific spirit in mind, but not all of the other music that I enjoy and play has to accomplish the same thing.”
Does being labelled Black metal accurate to your style?
''Yes. What traditionalists forget, I think, is that when second-wave black metal's foundations were laid, there were no rules. Every new release was an experiment, in both deliberate and accidental senses. So even though Bleakwood is more diverse and experimental than many bands in this genre, I would say the spirit of rebellion that was intrinsic to black metal in its contemporary formation is present in Bleakwood, and absent in many others.''
With the diversification of Black metal. Is it now more a state of mind rather than a musical style?
''Yes, exactly. A black flame which casts many and divergent shadows.''
Has it reached its zenith creatively?
"'Tough question. I think it's harder for a band to make something genre-defining now - not that it was ever easy, perhaps. But luckily there's always people pushing the boundaries. I recently came across Haxandraok's debut LP and have been very impressed by that. And the seep of dissonant black metal into other musical genres - see, for example, the latest Ulcerate - has produced exciting cross-pollination. I don't care about genre purity much; making striking and fascinating artistic statements seems like a much worthier aim than photocopying previous achievements.''
How different is Solypsis compared to your split EP's?
''Continuity and discontinuity. Making an album that hangs together but stays exciting and surprising is a very different enterprise from writing a song or pair of songs that achieves that goal. For the album I plotted musical and lyrical arcs - it's not a concept album, but it definitely has a direction; if you shuffled the track order it would be like insisting on fitting a jigsaw puzzle together wrongly.''
''Also, I think it's simply the best-played and best-produced stuff I've done so far. More ambition buttressed by higher standards.''
''Is it based on the definition of Solypsis the theory that the self is the only reality?
Not far off; it's based on the idea that each of us is intrinsically alone - our subjective experience is ours utterly. And a bit more cheekily, it's the statement of intent of a solo project: this is my personal expression of what I want to hear and achieve as a musician.''
Based on that self is more than one attribute. How is society coping? Or do you reject social norms and values?
''COVID-19 is a strange and challenging time to ask! I think the jury is out. Any fair-minded person would have to grant that the societies that are doing better under the present circumstances are the ones better able to imagine themselves as societies rather than as collections of competing individuals.''
Who is the oldest greatest betrayer?
''One of my early influences in Bleakwood's themes and lyrics was William Blake:
'It indeed appear'd to Reason as if Desire was cast out, but the Devils account is that the Messiah fell, & formed a heaven of what he stole from the Abyss.'
This points to the connection between subjective experience and The Betrayer.
What I'm really trying to get at in an even more primeval sense is the idea that the spirit of betrayal is in all of us - unknowing betrayal born out of our intrinsic subjectivity and lack of self-reflection, self-betrayal, even your body betraying you (see 'Phrenograph' for an account of chronic illness), and so on.''
Is there any light amongst the bleakness?
''There are moments on the album that do speak of freedom and liberation, although of course this is more than outweighed by the darkness. Thankfully, my own life is certainly not an unhappy one.''
Is it liberating to be in a one person project. Or does it become hard to find inspiration?
''I think it makes me a better band member in my other bands and projects - helps me exorcise some of my control-freak tendencies! I wouldn't say I find it hard to write, but progress is slow when there is a lot else on in my life - no-one picks up the slack in my absence.
Your inspiration? Literature, art ,film?
''Too many to mention. Ingmar Bergman. Edvard Munch. Frank Herbert. The list goes on and on. I just soak it all in. I particularly like post-apocalyptic themes and literature - in that vein, at the moment I am enjoying a book by Australian author Cat Sparks called Lotus Blue.''
Does the atmospheric component come from classical references?
''Yes, especially contemporary stuff like Pärt and Gorecki - also soundtrack composers such as Vangelis. There's a Lutoslawki influence in something I have ready to record. I also listen to a lot of 'new-jazz' on the ECM label; I think that has subtly made its presence felt even though the musical aesthetics is so far from Bleakwood.''
Are you still planning to release an EP in 2020?
''I'm hoping to. COVID-19 has altered a lot of plans. I'm even busier at work than I was expecting to be this year (it really is a pivotal moment), and practicing drums less than I would like. I want this to be an improvement on Solypsis in terms of performance and production. Also, COVID has slowed vinyl manufacture and international freight right down. At any rate, the compositions are there, ready to be recorded when I am able.'
Three tracks; more disciplined and focused than Solypsis; a bit more of a traditional and severe heavy metal feel in places; the experimental element pushed further forward in places as well.
It'll be heavier in a conventional sense, but you'll certainly hear that it's the same band. The LP after that will be weirder and more organic; this next EP is a pin I need to put into the map before taking the project in that more tonally adventurous direction.''
The idea of Death, Rebirth, Death?
''I am quite influenced by Dana Meadows' work on systems thinking and propose that these cyclic oscillations between different disequilibria are high-level manifestations of mathematical cycles which are found throughout nature and ecosystems, the economy, complex engineering, etc... an all-encompassing language or map; the recurrence of recurrence!''
Has 2020 brought out the worst in society and it's inherent selfishness
''Crises always bring out the best and the worst in people. The people at the top of the wealth distribution certainly benefit from turning the rest of us against each other. At this point true rebellion lies in identifying and rejecting that agenda.''
Do you think/ feel that there is any pressure to continue the established Bleakwood sound? Or you have the freedom to create what ever you want?
''There's no point doing the same thing twice, but equally if the output shifts its identity utterly perhaps it is a new project. I like what I make with Bleakwood, both the process and the result, and don't have a label or anyone breathing down my neck for a product that I may or may not be inspired to make. I am already plotting a path of evolution. If I were to lose focus on or interest in Bleakwood, I would rather draw a line under it and do something different than enforce my own stagnation.''
Bleakwood is not your only project?
''No, there is always a call on drummers. The Veil, Futility, Ironwood, Greed & Rapacity, Remember That You Will Die, some session work with a variety of bands... the list goes on. Some work with Melbourne multi-instrumentalist Terry Vainoras. I really enjoyed participating in Dead River Runs Dry.''
Multi_ instrumentation. How hard is it?
''Time is a limitation. I'm not the musician I want to be on any instrument, including drums, which is my primary instrument. That said, I know what the quirks of my playing are; I play rhythm guitar in a way that sits with the way I play drums, for instance. Something I try to do is make what I'm doing sound like a full live band - for example, with the guitars, I play different instruments with different pickups, mostly different guitar lines, sometimes deliberately played a fraction looser with one than the other, fairly panned. That seems to give more of a sense of both density and space than what I hear in a lot of solo stuff. Maybe that's antithetical to what a lot of solo projects are trying to achieve.''
The greatest riff that isn't yours
''To answer the question a bit perversely - I love the end title theme to Blade Runner, and one of my favourite black metal artists has used the theme, or something very similar to it, in probably my favourite song of his.''
And your peers?
'' I'll let others make the call about who my peers are or aren't.''
Your Involvement in the Australian black metal scene?
''Australia has produced some fantastic bands. Nazxul is the one that really sticks out for me, both in terms of their musical output and also their presentation and mystique.''
Your top 6 albums of all time
''Not an easy question - so much depends on context, mood, etc. Even the weather outside would change the below list...
Axis of Advance - Strike
Leviathan - Massive Conspiracy Against All Life
Arvo Pärt - Fratres
Abigor - Supreme Immortal Art
Ketil Bjørnstad and Terje Rypdal - Life in Leipzig
Kenji Kawai - Ghost in the Shell OST