Not long before midnight on a recent Saturday evening at the Blacklight District Lounge in Long Beach, a string-based quintet tuned their instruments behind the lingering smoke of incense and a ritualistic evocation triangle. The audience, silently waiting in curious anticipation for the group’s set to start, was immediately hypnotized into an underworld trance with the haunting cello opening of headliner Hvile I Kaos’ song “Agios O Baphomet.”
Hvile I Kaos, meaning “Rest in Chaos” in Norwegian, are described as cellistic black metal or black ritual chamber music, and are driven by deeply spiritual devotions to extreme metal and occult philosophies.
Unconventional and beautifully structured with layers of orchestral sounds, live Hvile I Kaos consist of violinist Emerson Sinclair, violist Corinne Olsen, guitarist Brent Vallefuoco, bassist Sam Hernandez and cellist Kakophonix. Kakophonix, 26, of Long Beach, also happens to be the founder, master composer and brains of the instrumentally dominant band.
Taking creative direction from influences such as Dissection, Apocalyptica, The Devil’s Blood and Watain, Kakophonix’s latest musical compilation and official full-length album, Agios O Fotiá, released via Deathwave Nexion in October, signifies a new wave in what constitutes black metal and "heavy" music. This unique, spiritually centered phenomenon is slowly infiltrating Southern California in a series of live performances to support the album — which are intrinsic to the overall theme of Hvile I Kaos — including a show at the Five Star Bar in Los Angeles along with Whoredom Rife on Friday, May 4.
“The live element is where the spiritual intent behind the music can be experienced directly and where these archetypes and god forms are being conjured quite literally in person during the performances,” Kakophonix says.
Hvile I Kaos attribute their purpose and themes to the philosophies of the Order of Nine Angles, a concentrated effort to facilitate the next essential step in human revolution by means of the practice of magic, according to Kakophonix. An embodiment of these beliefs to certain ideas and archetypes is funneled into soundscapes that tell a story on Agios O Fotiá and is the reason behind the strategic partnership with underground label Deathwave Nexion.
“Deathwave has the greatest understanding and respect for what I am doing with Hvile I Kaos as much as possible, not just as a musical release or form of entertainment,” Kakophonix says. “They really understand the spiritual phenomenon of what I’m doing. They specifically release books and music that are related to occult themes. Their primary goal is to help art with that primary intention and get it out there to the best of their abilities. It seemed like a really appropriate step for us.”
When Kakophonix first created Hvile I Kaos at age 19, dark spirituality wasn’t nearly as prevalent in his music or in his life. It wasn’t until his last year in college at Baldwin-Wallace University, where he was double majoring in cello performance and music composition, that he was exposed to literary works by Michael W. Ford and Peter J. Carroll that provided a sense of clarity and mission.
“I started meeting people who had more exposure to those types of ideas. I understood that extreme metal, black metal and all of the music I really loved always had that undercurrent,” Kakophonix says. “I was made aware that this music isn’t just music in a surface-value sense, it’s a sort of primal call to arms to awaken the higher intellect, and that creating music, performing magic and esoteric study all lead toward that same goal.
“What’s important is that I came away from it with a very clear sense of direction and there is something that lives underneath the surface of art that has a correlation to magic that I knew I had to dig in and explore for myself and also expose it to as many people as would listen.”
Los Angeles, providing an infinite pool of platforms for musicians of all genres, has been a supportive breeding ground for Hvile I Kaos rituals, including the album release show with Church of the 8th Day, the recent Long Beach performance with ADHD Entertainment and the upcoming performance at Five Star Bar with Hate War Productions.
“(Kakophonix) is very genuine, honest and passionate about what he believes in spiritually. I can respect that,” says Sergio Soto, guitarist and vocalist for L.A.-based melodic black-metal band Imperialist, who also hired Kakophonix to compose an orchestral introduction for Imperialist’s upcoming album. “He’s doing something that is setting him apart. Maybe (Hvile I Kaos) is not what someone automatically thinks of when someone says black metal, but he’s trying to evoke an emotion that is different.”
Of late, many black-metal bands, both well-known and underground, have been affected by widespread, and usually unfair, accusations of racism, homophobia, Islamophobia and more, and have had to cancel tours or shows due to the consequences of such allegations. Kakophonix says he sees no reason to respond to “minds that are that small” if Hvile I Kaos are confronted with similar hurdles, given the abnormalities and thematic extremities of his band’s nature.
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“I think black metal in 2018 is in a very strange place because the original line of attacking Christianity or organized religion doesn’t really hold the same weight that it used to,” Kakophonix says. “We’re having this new wave of accusations about racism or homophobia being thrown at us, and in a few instances they may be valid, but regarding the community and artistic movement (of black metal) as a whole are not valid. I thought about how to apply this to myself, which is to focus on the spiritual aspect and focus on helping people think beyond this very closed circuit and very polarized, partisan type of thinking that people on both sides of the political spectrum are stuck on.”
At the end of the day, Kakophonix believes it all comes down to fear.
“I think this whole crisis reflects the fact that black metal has always been something that the masses are afraid of," he says. "It’s never been safe, and it’s not supposed to be safe. It’s supposed to be thought-provoking and it’s supposed to be dangerous. As such, it’s really no surprise to me that people who have been raised on the idea that the world will coddle them will not respond well to an art form that is not just weaponized but is a weapon in itself. It’s a weapon against stagnant and unevolved thinking.”