Broken Spirit—a one-man, DIY project from Perth—shows how isolation breeds creativity. Or, in this case, some of the most depraved contemporary black metal you can hear today.
We chatted to founder B.H shortly after the release of his debut full-length, Vivid Dreaming, about drugs, recording in a caravan and living in the void.
Up to anything interesting at the moment?
There's always something I can work on with the bands and projects I'm a part of. Soon as I leave my day job, my mind starts ticking as to what needs to be done. I find myself switching between guitar and drums often. Then I'll have times when I just prefer to write lyrics and ideas down or work on mixing and drafting of tracks.
Vivid Dreaming is out now via Altare Records. Are you excited to finally have your debut album in the flesh?
This release is definitely an achievement for me. I set a few goals when I was feeling fed up, another worthless human constantly reflecting on life in general and what purpose I would like to serve with mine. I needed to focus on something.
I gave myself 12 months as a deadline to have at least an album’s audio finished.
Turns out roughly 13 months later from that day I have a 12-inch pressed and released by one of my most highly regarded and respected labels. There wouldn't be to many other places where this release would see fit.
Can you give me a bit of history about Broken Spirit?
Broken Spirit began sometime in 2012, a few months after I purchased my first guitar. Being left handed becomes frustrating when a rehearsal room is full of guitars you cannot play.
From there, I made time to practice and developed a 'feel' for it. It came naturally, as if all the years playing drums and being around guitarists had rubbed off on me. I started keeping riffs using phone recordings for a point of reference and to fall back onto and work them into tracks. I picked up a TASCAM four-track recorder and started the first demo, laying a rough guitar guide track to record the drums to. All of the recording was done in a small ‘crypt’ caravan set on the side of a hill, amongst a scenic valley.
At the time I was contacted by the guy that ran the now deceased Misanthropic Art Productions (Korea). An idea for his cassette only sub-label, Berserk Ritual productions, was mentioned with interest in hearing my project as a potential first release. March 2013 saw the release of Broken Spirit Promo 2013.
Within weeks of posting out my last copies, I had already recorded most of demo two. Called Rotting in Void, it was released yet again through Berserk Ritual Productions in February 2014.
From here, I felt a solid shift in creating the sounds and atmosphere I wanted to hear—but also felt it was starting to become something on its own; a natural development taking shape and form.
Next up was the release of a split with Obskuritatem, a Bosnian raw black/noise project that still gives me chills to this day. The sort of music you couldn’t make if you tried to, it’s uniquely fucked up. The tape came out June 2014 via US label Dungeon Tapes.
Black Gangrene Productions (Portugal) handled the tape release of demo three, Solò otro cerdó, in December 2015. I still consider this my most heinous, nasty and disgusting material. It led Broken Spirit to speak for itself and, for me, made some positives out of some very dark times in my life.
The release of the full-length feels like a weight being lifted as I enter the next phase of the project.
Any plans to do a full-scale Australian touring off the back of this release? Or do you still consider Broken Spirit to be a studio project?
The thought has only crossed my mind in recent times, to play live with it at all to be honest. It'll happen one day in one way or another.
I wouldn't see an Australian tour as necessary for this LP or overly beneficial to Broken Spirit. It's more a case of the right show presenting itself, rather than me wanting to put it out there on a stage for the masses.
You recorded and produced this album. Do you relate specifically with DIY-aesthetic, or was this method borne out of basic necessity?
Doing everything myself was the point of Broken Spirit. I've always had an interest and basic knowledge of recording and mixing. I'd learnt a bit from watching others over the years, but also actually taking time to read up on the equipment I own and use.
I've always had preference in analogue recording, I guess getting a buzz from this stuff makes all the trial and errors that go with less painful.
Vivid Dreaming is the first release I've recorded bass on, and looked for a slightly more defined sound with overall. The sound has carried on from previous works, building on from the eerie—almost ambient—overtones that wash through. The only different thing I did with this release is spent more time in the EQ-ing and mastering phase when it was all recorded.
What was the atmosphere, or feeling, like in the ‘studio’ this time around?
The majority, if not all of the recording, would have been recorded under the influence of drugs, alcohol and medication. So I would have periods of inspiration and get a lot of recording done, then at times no want to hear it or care for a couple weeks.
What did you find most challenging about recording your first full-length?
Making sure I didn't repeat song structures or play anything to predictable. The whole period seems like a blur to think back on, as much as it was not always that way at the time.
What draws me in about Vivid Dreaming is just how chaotic the album is. It’s a complete mindfuck of noise and abrasive sounds from start-to-finish. Is that what you were aiming for when you wrote this release?
Yes, exactly. That's a perfect way to describe this project and has been a key element and focus since day one.
Can you describe, mentally, how you all approached writing this release?
I needed something to focus and put a lot of my negative energy into. It was definitely during a stage of transition and learning to find the joy in things again—not viewing everything temporary and pointless.
Did you have to bring any guest musicians in help on this release like previous efforts?
On this release there is no guests, only lyrics to one track by Old of Drohtnung.
Vocally, this album really lays it out on the table—it’s raw and biting. Would you consider this an intensely personal release lyrically, or did you draw from broader influences?
Most of the lyrics are personal and are words from my own thoughts. Ideas that I've felt had some deeper meaning to me, whether it be quite blunt and to the point at times. I've found I've never needed to delve into any false mysticism or made-up themes with the lyrics for Broken Spirit. Honesty can be crushing. I tried to make this album work as a journey, and something to be heard as a whole.
What has become your favourite song on the album and why?
Purge The Soul has a really unique feel and would be a standout for me in terms of songwriting and experimenting, without taking away key elements of what Broken Spirit is in my own mind. Blending what could be considered a techno/industrial beat with the warped sounding main riff really grabbed me as something I’d wanted to hear back again-and-again. So it stayed.
The track titled Desvenlafaxine has some of the better lyrics I've written and would definitely paint a picture in ones mind who may read them. Especially if they have ventured down similar paths before with antidepressants and/or drugs. It touches on some of the side effects and feelings experienced.
"Deprived of feeling sensation/lifeless stagnant human. Safe comforting serotonins/Impulsive, oh to feel again." - Desvenlafaxine, Broken Spirit.
The artwork is also a standout. Who created this and what drew you to their work?
The main cover art piece is one a good friend, Allhexx of Vomiting Black Art, dug out from his personal archives. He added some additional touches prior to it being used for this 12-inch cover. The image itself captures the warped, raw harshness and 'dreaming' aspect of the record.
It’s something you'd only see while your mind’s in an altered state or nightmarish vision. The layout itself was put together by myself and Old (Drohtnung, Snorri, Pestilential Shadows) . I went to the effort of type writing all the lyrics, and using my own handwritten titles for it. I wanted to add the small personal touches, but also keep to a traditional DIY/cut’n’paste feel. Old had the skills and made it all work in together nicely over a few scotch’s.
Where did the title for the album stem from?
The title came to me when I was trying to explain what it feels like as a whole when I listen to it. At the start of recording, I was having a lot of intense dreams and waking in sweats. The track Desvenlafaxine touches on these experiences and reoccurring dreams.
You also chose to Altare Records to release you debut. Why were they the right fit for this release?
I've been up-to-date with the label since its birth, including what was known as Discipline Productions prior to Altare. I’m also a fan of a lot of the artists on current and past rosters. I'd spoken to ‘D’, who runs the label and mentioned I was in the process of recording an album as he showed interest in previous tapes of mine. It seemed like the best place for it and I'm honoured for it to be there!