One could be tempted to say that Black Metal, as a cultural space, does not hold much mystery any more ; it’s been more than 30 years and as much as we all enjoy the blast beats and spooky vibes, sometimes it feels like we have good ol’ Black Metal all figured out.
Stagnant Waters is the perfect contradiction to this feeling : unexpected, unapologetic, moving ambiguously between the realms of the dead and the living. This experimental entity released a bold and indisputably Black Metal statement in 2012 with their self-titled debut… Only to crawl back in the shadows for more than a decade, leaving us to try and process an album as rich and chaotic as 666 International.
The beast has not remained dormant though ; a second album had been carving its way to existence through thorns and obscured paths, a two-headed beast scarred with a decade of work, conflicts, disappointments, compromises and grinding.
This monster wanted to be alive, it had to fight for its own birth ; this very fact should give us a hint of the innate power it has to express.
We at the Riff are extremely proud to feature Black Fields / Battle Tactics of General Nonsense, the first dual single from Stagnant Waters’ upcoming album Rifts. Listen here :
On top of this exclusive feature, we had the privilege of approaching Cam, the project’s mastermind and head surgeon, for six questions to hopefully help you frame this multi-dimensional roller-coaster ride, infused with 666 International Black Metal, Electro-Breakcore, Jazz, flute, and planning for conquest of the nonsensical plane.
Who is behind Stagnant Waters ?
STAGNANT WATERS is a trio : Svein-Egil « Zweizz » Hatlevik (Fleurety, Strid, ex-Dødheimsgard), Aymeric Thomas (Pryapisme), and myself, the three of us being multi-instrumentalists.
When and how did the project start ?
Early 2007 : as a more industrial / brutal side project compared to what I was doing in both Dreams of the Drowned and Smohalla, mostly inspired by my obsession for both Dødheimsgard and Atom/Phantomsmasher. A playground of weird and intense electronics and extreme metal. Used to be Stagnant Water, and the « S » was added when I was joined by Aymeric in 2008. We were joined by Joey Hopkins, a crazy American who sadly and unexpectedly died in early 2009. As a tribute to his companion and friend, Zweizz joined us.
Why the name ‘Stagnant Waters’ ?
Three things : most of my ideas came while bathing, I was obsessed with water thematically and aesthetically, and I also loved both Dälek and the Cthulhu mythos.
The Stagnant part became a self-fulfilling prophecy / curse and I should’ve called this project « spontaneous combustion » or something.
All three of you have your main music projects and several collabs and endeavours. What does Stagnant Waters do among your “catalogue”, what were you going for with this project ?
For me at least, it explores an entirely different range of emotions / intents than Dreams of the Drowned which is my main project : lynchian absurdisms, themes, and atmospheres, Dadaïstic ways of approaching aesthetics and creativity, more extreme speeds, weirder synthesizers, patchwork production a la « 666 International », and last but not least my immortal love for both Coil and DHG.
It’s basically an unavoidable part of my processes, an extremely important project to not get (even more) lost in my everflowing streams of ideas, like many other outlets of mine / entities channeling my selves in different and complementary ways. It’s a mental and artistic ecosystem. I also play in DMH/Doedsmaghird and Void (UK), which aren’t too far, yet extremely different collaborations.
For Zweizz I imagine it’s an exciting way to express himself through, different than both Fleurety and Strid, and probably closer to what he felt in DHG ; and for Aymeric I guess it was a different approach than what he used to do in Pryapisme, so interesting too.
It’s been ten years since the debut album. Why now ?
Actually eleven years hehe. Basically the first album was finished musically in 2008, and the vox were recorded on early 2010 — released in late 2012… So you see, took quite a while too.
We started this one (with both « Black Fields » and « Battle Tactics of General Nonsense », actually) in late 2012 as well, with much bigger musical inputs from Zweizz (who provided us with way more musical ideas for this album, ukulele, synths, flutes, drums..) and also Kim Sølve, who laid the electronic foundations for two tracks.
Then Aymeric was extremely busy with Pryapisme, which completely (and justifiably) skyrocketed at the time, while I was (also) extremely busy basically trying to remain sane as my mental health drastically deteriorated.
Then I slowly managed to start recording music again in less chaotic / self destructive ways, and we exchanged ideas again — but in a less fluent way than for the first album, with lots and lots of conflicts, and many songs (and ideas like releasing EPs, playing live) were rejected. A bit hard to stomach seeing this project become painful : a rift was forming itself between us.. But we persisted.
In 2018 we reached a point where we had enough music made out of consensus, a very frail one, and Zweizz came back to Clermont-Ferrand to record his vox. After he was done, the last step was to record acoustic drums instead of electronic drums. We thought everything was about to be mixed and released. But…
Aymeric recorded these drums without communicating or sending any previews, and when he finally sent the album in September 2019 (all at once, all finished) everything felt drastically changed compared to the consensus, resulting in a very different mood, intensity… Album, really. You will be able to hear how different — the BM knob was turned from 6.66 to 1. That was always a difference between us.
The rift was finalized and could have killed the project.
After a lot of fighting we decided the best option for survival was to split the album in two : one version close to the consensus, finished by me, and another version following Aymeric’s aesthetic vision, finished by him.
Took me a year and a half to finish my version, as I moved places 4 times in the most chaotic years of my life so far (including taking my whole life to Ireland in the middle of the pandemic). Re-recorded drums and synths, and mixed this juggernaut — a huge job. Also invited guests : Nicolas Senac (Pryapisme) and Laura Weston (Void).
What’s to be expected from the album then ? What are the next things to come ?
In the end we had two extremely different versions, which Neuropa Records (the label, nd) proposed to sell together as a double-album (my version on vinyl and Aymeric’s on CD). A very interesting contrast, and probably the best possible version of this album, with a bit of distance. Every song gets two entirely different forms, tracklist is different, details, etc.
The artwork handled by Trine og Kim took two years too, and still isn’t finished as we speak, so the production process is still halted and as of now, we still don’t have a fixed release date — but those singles are preparing the bigger release.
Battle Tactics of General Nonsense is Aymeric’s version and Black Fields is mine ; in a way, a dichotomy quite close to the first album, first because it’s songs we composed right after being done with it, but also because our debut was very much alternating the two of us too (same difference as the one between songs like « Algae » and « Axolotl »). It’s a very nice way to introduce « Rifts », almost like an EP length-wise, and I hope this kaleidoscopic chaos of ours will be enjoyable. Those two songs are eleven years old, yet they remain relevant and interesting.
There will be another double-single down the way, when we will be sure of the release date.
This album was made out of depression and distance — isolation, really ; but also celebrates creativity and uncompromising individuality in a very unique way. It’s an interesting contrast. Hopefully will inspire various things to various beings and/or non-beings. And hopefully will give space for new-old music which won’t take 11 years to finalize. I didn’t think I would live long enough to see this weird new album finally being out of our damned hands. Yet here we are, all old and broken, giving birth. Still lots of juicy juices though. On my side, years of songs piled up because « the second Stagnant Waters needed to be completed first ». They will be completed. The future sucks but also rules. Maybe? Ah, who knows anything, I surely don’t believe I did or do but hey Roog does and will make sure everything works out.
The first double single “Black Fields // Battle Tactis of General Nonsense” is out on Bandcamp. The album “Rifts” will be available through Neuropa Records (Vinyl and CD) later this year.