Kommandant: The Toilet ov Hell Interview

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“We have met the enemy, and he has become us.” The guitarist and band founder answers some questions about the new album coming in April, recording their music, and the perks of wearing a gas mask onstage.

Chicago’s instantly-identifiable Kommandant are an intimidatingly powerful live presence: band members are clad in full-head gas masks and black mid-century military garb. The vocalist, standing behind a raised black lectern, wears similar attire while appearing with his face shrouded in black and occasionally beneath a crown of spiked barbed wire. Onstage there is no banter, no milling about, no stopping for a sip of beer or fussing with amps. You won’t hear “you guys are a great audience!” or “tip your bartender!” at Kommandant shows. Between songs, band members are motionless, facing the crowd at full attention with hands behind their backs, primed for the next assault. They appear ready for an apocalypse at any moment. Check out this performance at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn from 2012.

A part of the US black metal scene since 2005, Kommandant released their first demo Iron Hands on Scandinavia in 2006, as well as two additional full-length albums (2008’s Stormlegion and 2012’s The Draconian Archetype) and numerous other EPs, demos and samplers in that time. Their music is bleak, raw, unflinching and uncompromising, rejecting trends and forging its own path. Their newest full-length, The Architects of Extermination, will be available on April 27th and features appropriately propagandistic artwork by illustrator Francesco Gemelli.

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Here’s a preview:

I reached out to Kommandant’s founder/guitarist James Bresnahan via facebook, who was cool enough to answer some questions about what the septet have been up to lately.

Your new album (available April 27th) is titled The Architects of Extermination. What is the central concept or idea behind this title?

Kommandant is art reflecting mankind… we have met the enemy, and he has become us.

Does this album build upon the concepts established in your previous albums, or is it something different entirely?

I believe that it does have a relationship with our previous album, The Draconian Archetype, which dealt with the theoretic application of a historic pragmatism to modern society. Both Draconian and our new record reflect my personal disgust towards the current state of modern man and society; no honor, no loyalty, no discipline, no respect, no confidence… only arrogance and passive aggressiveness. Everyone cannot and does not have the ability to be the leader. The concept that everyone is the same and that all deserve exactly the same is absurd, and only brings closer the downfall… as mankind walks hand in hand towards slavery, stumbling blind in the forest, directionless and without a true leader.

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How long have you been with your current label, ATMF, and how have they supported Kommandant’s music?

For a few years now. We have appreciated their stance of 100% non-censorship, a stance which I feel may become vital for us to be able to function into the future. We have already begun to feel the stranglehold of censorship by being excluded from certain publications. Metal music has become whitewashed and sterilized for the most part, as most of you are probably well aware of by now. Society is never comfortable with a dissonant voice, and the reaction is usually an attempt at censorship; an attempt to squash what they cannot understand to be a possible path towards enlightenment.

Where did you record The Architects of Extermination?

Belle City Sound.

Tell me a bit about the recording process for this album. Did Kommandant try new things in the studio, or did you use methods that have served you well in the past?

The approach on this album was different from our previous work in the sense that, aside from the obvious necessary production values, we used very little editing of the actual performances. The result is a far more atmospheric and haunting representation of the band. From the artwork to the music, the entire package, this is our best work and I am extremely proud of it.

What has been your favorite touring experience so far?

I haven’t had my favorite tour yet. Perhaps I can report back with this at the end of 2015.

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What is the biggest challenge of playing with seven band members?

There isn’t one. I see our unorthodox lineup as a great asset. There is something about multiple partners with the same goal in mind, moving as one, that gives you an incredible sense of confidence when onstage. Every member is of equal high value, in unquestionable support of one another. My men are the best in the world. Come see us live and see if you disagree with me.

What is the best and/or worst thing about wearing a gas mask onstage?

Wearing the gas mask is dehumanizing for the viewer and de-individualizing for the wearer. We are cogs in the machine. Kommandant is an impersonal, inorganic entity. This is the best attribute to this aesthetic. Additionally, I have always been impressed by large groups wearing identical clothing, so this was an obvious influence of mine brought to fruition. Many bands wear gas masks and black neo-militant clothing, but not in the context in which we present it.

Given the visual intensity of Kommandant’s stage presence, what is the best feedback you’ve received after a show?

A fan in California once told me “please continue and never stop what you are doing.” This sticks with me always.

Any plans for 2015?

Yes. We are planning on a tour of the East and Southeast United States, and The Architects Of Extermination will finally be unleashed in April on ATMF. The initial pressing, containing an elaborate digipak layout, will consist of seven songs plus a bonus track, unique to this pressing only, with a total running time of approximately 45 minutes. The vinyl version will be released under license to Art Of Propaganda.

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Check out Kommandant on facebook and at their official website

(header img via) | (other images courtesy of Kommandant’s facebook page)

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