A Mountain's Duality: How The Beauty and Might of the Alps Drove TURIA's Degen van Licht
The Dutch black metal scene has seen an uptick in notoriety over the last few years. Names like Urfaust, Laster, and Terzij de Horde have been around for a comparatively long period of time. Yet, over the last five years, there's been a boom in the talent coming out of the Netherlands. A lot of it stems from a burgeoning group of collaborators and ancillary members that operate under the banner, Haeresis Noviomagi. The thinly veiled sect carries a number of incredibly talented projects under their moniker. Among them, the trio named Turia.
Turia, alongside Lubbert Das, is one of the original projects from Haeresis Noviomagi. Since roughly 2015, the collection of musicians has branched out to start other projects like Iskandr, Solar Temple, and Nusquama. As the collaborations and projects unfold, they've garnered acclaim for their releases in underground circles and have since toured Europe and played at their native Roadburn. All of this to say, for all of the greatness and growth that has happened since 2015, the full-length return of Turia took their bar and raised it to even more mountainous heights.
Officially their third full-length record, Turia's Degen van Licht is a majestic homage to the Alps along the French and Italian borders as well as the wildlife that inhabits those peaks. The trio has always been adept at crafting an ambiance that draws the listener into their creation. However, Degen van Licht strikes a different chord.
Through equal parts of improved production clarity, heightened complexity, and deliberately diverse songwriting; Turia built a high mark for Dutch (and global) black metal this year. Across seven tracks, reverberating riffs and humming analog synths paint a landscape of the renowned mountain range—and the dangers that emerge as the seasons change and people test their luck.
Vocalist, T, drives the stirring dashes of Turia's music with a unique vocal and lyrical delivery that comes, not from a concrete narrative, but from intangible emotion seeping from the subject matter. O covers the blistering tremolo and lurching dirge that echo like the calls of animals across Mont Blanc. J's maddening blasts build a frenzied meter that seemingly carries the songs up the mountains by themselves. Though their talent is present throughout the album's entirety. There are true standout moments, like in "Met Sterven Beboet," "Storm," and the lengthy finale, "Ossifrage," where the three members truly shine.
Degen van Licht arrives this Friday from Haeresis Noviomagi—who has tapes, LPs, and merchandise for Europe—as well as Eisenwald Records, who are managing distribution to the United States. Listen to an exclusive stream of the album and read an in-depth interview with the band now. Be sure to preorder the record as well.
Metal Injection: For readers of this site that might not know, Turia is a part of a collective called Haeresis Noviomagi out of the eastern Netherlands. This project, along with Iskandr, Lubbert Das, Solar Temple, Nusquama, and Paean fill the roster. How did you all as individuals and friends come together for this musical collective?
Turia: We were all friends before starting this label. Parts of us were already making music with the band Lubbert Das. When Turia started, we talked about a fitting vehicle to distribute our music and tie it more directly into each other since both bands shared two-thirds of the members. The Lubbert Das Deluge EP and the Turia Dor albums were the first releases under the banner of Haeresis Noviomagi, but more projects were already lined up to be released.
Since we handled all aspects of the production process, from recording and mixing, doing the artwork and layout (mastering was done by our friend Peter Johan Nyland, a great industrial/experimental composer from our city), it took quite a while to get everything out there and to have everything looking and sounding to our liking. More individuals since then have become close to our circle as the output and diverse collaborations increased.
The collective has grown in status over recent years, you all performed at Roadburn and now are partnered with the Eisenwald label for bigger distribution of your music. How has the recent, larger exposure affected Haeresis Noviomagi or your goals for your band?
Turia: We don’t really keep an eye on our status. We don’t think Haeresis Noviomagi has been subject to any hype; our growth has been steady and natural, fortunately. It led to us meeting people along the way that understand, appreciate, and support what we are doing. The people behind the Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands indeed played a role in this, for which we are very grateful.
But our collaborations with labels such as Fallen Empire, Amor Fati Productions, Altare Productions, and, since 2018, with Eisenwald, have also led to our music getting better releases and distributions across the underground. The larger exposure has not and will not affect our goals with the bands or the label. We remain steady in our course and prefer to keep all aspects of our art in our own hands as much as possible.
Shifting gears a bit. Your new album, Degen van Licht, is described as “an ode to the ageless lure of the unyielding mountains, and an exploration of the sweltering warmth which encompasses these heights every summer.” What are some of the mountain ranges and massifs or the wildlife in those areas you all explore that sparked inspiration for this record?
Turia: The direct personal inspiration for the themes explored on this album lies in the Alps, specifically the areas of the French/Italian border. That said, the album could perhaps be better understood as a more general exploration of the metaphors and mysticism of the high peaks of this earth. Life and death grow ever more distinct in the barren places of the world; the air is thinner and the shadows more pronounced. Even the most serene landscapes can become entangled with bloodshed.
Regarding wildlife, the last song of the record is a praise to the lammergeiers who roam these massifs. These unusual vultures almost exclusively feed themselves with bones, but in old folktales, they are described as hunting sheep and even human children. Tragically, because of these mythologies, they were hunted almost to extinction.
These high peaks of the world are very intimidating and unforgiving. One wrong step could kill you. It is a sobering or humbling reminder that we’re not invincible. You hear of all of these people lost on these peaks. Now, I think the even more frightening thing, are the bodies of people being lost decades and decades ago being unearthed as climate change melts the snow on ranges like the Himalayas.
Did you all travel to the Alps in the steps leading to Degen van Licht or did you think back to past travels there? Also, what is the experience like in such an immense mountain range as the Alps? In America, we have a few mountain ranges and a number of peaks in both Washington and Alaska that are quite massive.
Turia: The three of us traveled there a few years ago, at a time when we were already thinking about Degen van Licht in abstract terms. O and T have also traveled there multiple times in the last years. A lot of the musical and lyrical foundations stem from their long hikes through spring and summer alpine landscapes. Most of the musical framework of “Degen van Licht” was composed when staying there.
During springtime, the rising sun melts the veil of snow, and gigantic amounts of water emerge from the veins of the mountains. This landscape, seemingly devoid of life, awakens with a great surge. These abundant green pastures slowly morph under the sign of the merciless sun. The smells of withered wildflowers and dried alpine herbs, the profusion of buzzing insects and decaying animals all make it an overwhelming sensorial experience. You can hear vague tectonic rumbles and the reverberating calls of birds of prey while the scorching sun and the colossal heights bring one near the fringes of deliriousness. Climate change makes these changes ever more visible, intensifying the sun’s rays and melting the glaciers at a dire rate while disrupting the flora and fauna which is so characteristic for the Alps.
There is a song on the album, “Met Sterven Beboet,” that makes me think of this phenomenon the French originally called “L’appel du vide” or, in English, “the Call of the Void.” This idea of looking over a high ledge or cliff and feeling the urge to jump. Have you found yourself in a situation similar to this or does that idea hold any bearing on this track?
Turia: “L’appel du vide” is more about an existential, human feeling when we are confronted with how easily we could end our lives. However, “Met Sterven Beboet” encompasses a slightly different feeling. A feeling not bound to humans, a call—not of the void—but of affinity and companionship. Driven by extreme circumstances, one may seek a temporary escape from the restless chaos, looking for solitude and silence. But when this temporality vanishes, a strong pull towards a sense of belonging and community resurfaces. Unable to see clearly, one plunges themselves downwards, their will to live punished by death. This almost instinctual drive is simultaneously abhorrent and relatable, and in this way, it definitely is similar to the "call of the void."
That's a really cool concept. From what I gather and what I read about Turia, the project, lyrically, has occasionally talked about historical themes around Dutch culture. Dor dealt with certain Christian notions during Cholera outbreaks, Dede Kondre discusses Suriname, a former Dutch colony, and how those people built their society in the woodlands.
Does Degen van Licht have any historical context? I’ve been reading about the Merode family. Though they are Belgian nobility, they have a lot of ties into major events that shaped Dutch history.
Turia: "Merode" is an old Dutch word, and ironically, roughly translated as "poverty" or "misery." It is used as such for this song title. Unfortunately, the connection to the Belgian nobility was not an intentional connection to Dutch history. The themes explored in Degen van Licht have quite a lot less direct historical ties to our nations’ history. Although, general inspiration for the lyrics, art, and certain musical elements can be attested to an interest in works by a group called the Tachtigers—artists around the Wendingen publication and the artistic legacy of groups congregating at Monte Verità.
I see. So, in the context of the album and the opening song, in particular, it relates more to misery in the driving winds, treacherous rocks, and massive peaks that people overestimate and ultimately suffer consequences?
Turia: Definitely. A certain feeling of revealing the roots of life. To break open the bone and expose the marrow. In this sense, there is a very beautiful symmetry between the highest as well as the lowest places on this earth. The celestial and the abysmal both exert an equally terrifying pressure.
The Tachtigers comment is very interesting. It does shed a lot of light on Turia now. These writers’ idea that style has to match the subject with visceral emotion. That visceral emotion is very present in your music, especially this new album as well as your recent split with Fluisteraars. Are there any particular writers or works that you all find most interesting or have more weight with Turia?
Turia: Yes, their collective insistence on the unity between form and substance within art has been an important notion within our own work as well. We try to offer the listener or the audience a sensation, through music, performance, and artwork in which every particular piece is part of a bigger whole. This is not something that is unique to what we do of course, but it’s something we have to keep reminding ourselves and is a strict criterium by which we judge our own output. Particular writers who we take inspiration from within this group are Hélène Swarth, Herman Gorter, and, of course, the famous—at least within the Netherlands—Frederik van Eeden.
You all have toured extensively throughout Europe over the years, do you have any plans in the future to bring your live performance west to North America or any other parts of the country this year?
Turia: If circumstance allows it, we will be rejoiced to make the trip across the Atlantic. So far we have quite a few shows confirmed across Europe in support of our new record and we are very eager to perform the material in front of audiences new and old. More dates are in the works, so hopefully, we can bring our music to even more places in the future.
We would love to have you all over here. You need to come to Washington and I can take you to the American Alps! The North Cascades are a gorgeous mountain range not too far from where I live.
Turia: We would love to travel there and see those places. Thank you for doing this interview and hopefully we meet on the road!
Turia will be hitting the road in support of Degen van Licht starting this Friday and throughout the spring and summer. Dates are below and in European format.
14/02 BE, Antwerp – Het Bos w/ Laster (Release Show)
15/02 NL, Utrecht – dB's (Release Show)
20/02 FR, Lille – La Malterie w/ Alkerdeel
21/02 BE, Brussels – Magasin 4
22/02 DE, Brunswick – Vortex w/ Sun Worship
23/02 DE, Berlin – Zukunft am Ostkreuz
24/02 PL, Wroclaw – D.K. Luksus
25/02 CZ, Prague – Underdogs
26/02 SK, Bratislava – Kulturák klub
27/02 SLO, Ljubljana – Klub Gromka, AKC Metelkova mesto
28/02 HR, Zagreb – Klub Močvara
29/02 IT, Cittadella – Circolo Quadro
03/03 HUN, Budapest – Secret Location
04/03 PL, Katowice – Faust
05/03 PL, Warsaw – Chmury
06/03 PL, Poznan – Klub pod Minogą
07/03 DE, Halle – Hühnermanhattan Klub
21/03 UK, London, New River Studio w/ Lugubrum
04/04 NL, Amsterdam, OCCII w/ Ainsoph
01/08 IS, Norðanpaunk 2020