From Lviv in Ukraine, Nonsun released their excellent album Blood And Spirit last month, the follow up to their 2018 debut album Black Snow Desert. MetalTalk’s Jools Green spoke with guitarist Goatooth, who was in good spirits, considering the devastating impact of the Russian invasion.
Nonsun announced on 17 April 2022 that their former guitarist Taras Lavriv had died in a battle against Russian occupiers. Lavriv was a militant of the Azov Battalion and also the chief at Dolyna children’s art school. To support Taras’ family, please see the Facebook post below, or place a donation to PayPal using the email email@example.com.
The Nonsun album Blood And Spirit is an ambitious piece that fans of Doom, Drone, Post-Metal, and Avantgarde music will find fascinating, slightly unnerving and a powerfully compelling listen.
There is a notable difference between Black Snow Desert and Blood and Spirit sound-wise. “This wasn’t a deliberate move,” Goatooth says. “After Black Snow Desert was released, I didn’t have a clue what our next record would sound like.”
This change in sound happened naturally. “First of all,” Goatooth says, “there were differences between the writing processes of Black Snow Desert and Blood and Spirit. For Black Snow Desert, I brought some guitar ideas to rehearsals, where Alpha (the drummer) and I were jamming on them and developing them.
“After releasing Black Snow Desert, Alpha didn’t have a possibility to remain a permanent member of Nonsun. But he agreed to record drums for our next album. Alex joined me as a bass player, so the creation of Blood & Spirit was a totally different process. Alex contributed his own musical ideas.”
This was a different way of working for Goatooth. “It was the first time that someone else but me brought the ideas for the future record,” he says. “Another difference is that the songs were written and arranged at home. I made demos based on my and Alex’s ideas. Alpha came up with his drum parts also at home, creating them in midi editors. And only then we went to our rehearsal space to learn them and eventually record.”
Personal troubles were also a factor. “Throughout the period the material for Blood And Spirit was written, I was going through some really painful personal experiences,” Goatooth says. “It’s another reason why the new album turned out to be more emotional, heavier, angrier, and less pensive, melancholic, or ‘romantic’, and less ‘dehumanised’ than Black Snow Desert.”
Blood And Spirit sounds initially like, but isn’t, an instrumental record from a technical perspective. The vocals are delivered in a non-traditional, non-lyrical manner in the form of subtly integrated rumbling, guttural vocalisations and breathy chants.
These are carefully woven into the very fabric of the tracks, often at a barely perceptible level but adding a considerable degree of unnerving dark atmosphere, melding with the lower elements and complementing the higher, often hypnotic riffs.
It is this almost organic growth which makes the band stand out. “I don’t even know what we’re aiming for,” Goatooth says. “If we deliberately choose a direction we want to move towards, it would destroy all the creativity and magic.
“We are not young, and we’ve been influenced by so much different music in our life. I personally now don’t often listen to Metal or rock or pop. Most often, I listen to so-called ‘background’ music with a meditative, therapeutic effect. It’s usually drone, ambient, noise, contemporary classic, new age, avant-garde, free jazz, so-called ‘sleep music’, and anything else in-between.
“But we were hugely influenced by rock and Metal in our younger years, so now, when it comes to expressing some strong negative feelings, for us, it’s the most straightforward way to do it.
“I mean, the creative process for us is like letting all those different influences come out. I hugely respect the artists and bands who were innovators and invented new genres. But I doubt they were consciously aiming for it.”
It is the mixing of all those different musical influences the band have gathered throughout their lives which makes Blood And Spirit an excellent album. “We were not aiming to create something new,” Goatooth says, “but I think we’ve succeeded in obtaining our own individual style, even though our albums are different from each other. At least no one can say we’re anyone’s copycats or followers [smiles] because the spectrum of our influences is, like, real wide.
“I’m a big fan of the bands who never stop experimenting, and you never know what their next album would sound like. Like Boris, Melvins, Swans. Or Paradise Lost, especially in the ’90s, and that’s the case with us.”
Goatooth spoke about how existential matters are sources of inspiration. “For me, music is not an entertainment thing,” he says, “it’s more of a spiritual experience. Or, saying more ‘scientifically’, a therapy. I perceive it more in its primal form – as a ritualistic element, a transcendental experience.
“So I don’t know how someone would mention as the main inspiration for their creativity something like a book, or a film, or a relationship, whatever. Even if it seems like it’s the case, what we have in truth, is that this book or film or event evokes something deep inside, something essential and existential. And THAT is what inspires the artist.
“So let’s call things by their real names. The existential matter is always the main source of inspiration – it is the true art if it’s something valuable, deep.”
As mentioned, the vocal style is carefully woven into the very fabric of the tracks. “At first, we didn’t plan any vocals at all,” Goatooth says. “Our music was supposed to be instrumental as it was on Black Snow Desert. But then, when we had demos, we felt they lack something to enforce their emotional power.
“You see, Black Snow Desert was like an observation of different landscapes or empathy for innocent beings (especially children or animals). It was supposed to be as ‘dehumanised’ as possible.
“Blood And Spirit was more introspective, dealing with painful personal experiences, so it needed a kind of ‘human’ element to it. Not even ‘human’… I’d rather call it a ‘voice of the soul’ – to emphasise the spiritualistic theme of the album. So there are no lyrics – only voice textures (growls, chants, whispers, etc.).
“I’m a big Swans fan – especially of their newest ‘reincarnation’. The Glowing Man is one of my all-time favourites, and this album was a significant influence on me while writing Blood And Spirit.
“I especially loved the moments when Michael Gira was using his voice in a kinda ‘shamanic’ way, without singing any lyrics. They’re an experimental or alternative rock band (I’m not insisting that’s a correct formulation, [laughs]), and they still have a deeply spiritual vibe to their music.
“So I thought, why not add some spirituality to Metal? Some reviewers wrote about our previous releases that they felt that spiritual element. So on Blood And Spirit, we thought, why not try to even emphasise it more, to make it even more apparent – using those kinds of vocalisations.”
“It’s not the best times here, but life must go on,” the band said. “And music should exist even in the darkest times… What is this world worth without music?”
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UNHCR – The UN Refugee Agency – www.unhcr.org
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Médecins Sans Frontières – Doctors Without Borders – www.msf.org
International Red Cross – www.icrc.org/en
Fans of Doom, Drone, Post-Metal, and Avantgarde music will find Blood And Spirit a fascinating, slightly unnerving and powerfully compelling listen.
Vinyl 2xLP orders are available from dunkrecords.com/products/nonsun-blood-spirit-2xlp
Digital order is available at nonsun.bandcamp.com/album/blood-spirit