Frontman wrote new CD during visit to hell camp
Jewish Telegraph, April 2013
AUSCHWITZ has been the subject of countless films, books, plays and songs.
But one musician actually wrote his group’s latest album during a visit to the notorious Nazi death camp.
And even before its release on Monday, Sonderkommando (Candlelight Records) by black metal band The Meads of Asphodel has been condemned by many for its subject matter.
Black metal has a reputation for its extremism and Satanic musings, but London-based The Meads of Asphodel are not out to cause offence.
Frontman Metatron, who conceived the band in 1998, explained: “I live my life in peace and respectful of others. I also believe in the right of anyone to live in peace. I do not need religion to tell me this.”
Metatron — named after the Jewish angel mentioned in Genesis — visited Auschwitz in November 2011 with a friend “to look for myself beyond mere pages of a book or the visual interpretations of a lens.
“It was an extremely profound experience, one that made me realise this album had to be made. It really is hard to contemplate the mill of murder this place was.”
While he could have written the album without visiting Auschwitz, he feels that the trip added substance and true purpose.
He said: “I wanted to touch what I wanted to write about, to create an album of tragic barbarity, truth and meaning. I wanted to show that hatred is the cause of so many ills.
“The things I have learned about the Holocaust from this visit are more than I was taught. I have learned that antisemitism reaches far beyond the Nazi war machine, and that it was the collaboration of so many nations that made the Holocaust a reality.”
He added: “In Krakow I noticed the wholeness of Polish people and the absence of any cosmopolitan ideals and lack of foreigners. I was in a world of white people and that was very strange to me coming from a very multicultural land.
“I think the fall of the Berlin Wall has shown us that the eastern Europeans are still behind in the understanding of different cultures and probably not that tolerant without really knowing why.”
Metatron chose the Sonderkommando as the focus of the album because they “were hated by the Nazis and their own people”.
He said: “I felt their tragedy so deeply that I knew this album had to be named after them. I do not glorify the subject, but I do feel the song, The Mussulmans Wander Through The Infernal Whirling Fires Amongst Silent Shadows … is a kind of testimony to these people at a moment when they fought back.
“The song is about Sonderkommando 12, and it was a rare moment when Jews showed that even in the face of death, they would not just be lambs to the slaughter, which sadly most were.
“I also understand why many died without resistance, being mentally and physically worn down before they even knew what was to befall them, and even if they knew, they never knew for certain.”
The Meads of Asphodel are not new to controversy. Their previous album in 2010 was called The Murder of Jesus the Jew.
As with Sonderkommando, Metatron did meticulous research before writing the album.
He said: “It details the historical life of Jesus, the rabbi who was slaughtered on a tree by the Romans on a cold winter’s day 2,000 years ago, and thereafter his people condemned to be pariahs of the earth due to Christian hatred.
“It is ironic that the Jewish roots of the Christian church have been erased and the blame of their man-god’s death cruelly placed upon a people already broken by the yoke of Roman imperialism.
“Truth is often blinded by faith, none more so than the story of Jesus and his maligned people.”
Despite all the religiosity in his lyrics Metatron describes himself as an atheist.
“I have studied religions. The Roman church adopted a Jewish prophet and made him God, Romans murdered this prophet and when the new faith was being proliferated in Rome it would not do to blame a Roman for a God’s death, so the Jews were blamed and became ‘God Killers’.
“There is irony in this tale of truth. The Jews not only had their faith bastardised by Rome, the very people were cast unto the world to be pariahs and despised. Now, from a Judaic mindset there must be some plan involved here, but that is of no relevance to how I look upon facts.
“Religious beliefs are one of the pivotal forces behind the band’s existence. I seek to embrace history, geography and absorb the beliefs within this world.
“I cannot reconcile history and faith as they seem to be at odds with each other. I cannot accept the ancient biblical tales as fact, and neither can I accept modern interpretations of these stories in an attempt to make some sense of them.
“I do not doubt the ethical teachings of religious doctrines, and a deep urge to be kind to others, but moral laws do not need a God to enforce them. We are all capable of understanding what is right and wrong.”
Metatron says he has been left numb by both albums.
“I spent over a year absorbing the subject matter for Sonderkommando and prior to this many years absorbing the knowledge to create The Murder of Jesus the Jew.
“I think to really understand just a part of the Holocaust is harrowing, and I know I can never fully understand the horrors that happened, and no doubt if I were to even glimpse a small window in time, my reaction would be of a cowardly observer, as we all most surely are.”
He says that many of the reviews he has read for Sonderkommando “react to the difficulty of expressing such horror through the medium of audio.
“It is far more acceptable to explore the Holocaust through the mediums of literature and cinematography.
“It was important for me to write an explanation to my lyrics and the concept behind the whole album. This can be found on the band’s web page www.themeadsofasphodel.com”
The Meads, who also include drummer André Kjelbergvik Thung, JD Tait on guitars and keyboards, and bassist Alan Davey, have explored religious themes throughout their history.
Their first two album were The Excommunication of Christ and Exhuming the Grave of Yeshua.
But it is Sonderkommando which has affected Metatron the most.
“I had read and seen images of what occurred in Auschwitz, but to wander within the barbed wire perimeters settled my doubts as to any exaggerations or deceptive images I had seen in books,” he said.
“You cannot manufacture a perpetuating lie from such a resoundingly inhospitable place. You can sense the deathly atmosphere permeating the air, a real aura of hopelessness.
“I wrote much of the lyrics as I sat by the dreaded watchtowers, and in various places in the camp.
“One bizarre sight was the Polish security guards dressed in black, like ghosts of the past, patrolling the area with menace. I found this quite ironic.
“Laughter seemed forbidden, much like any visit to a graveyard, and yet there were no actual graves, just the marked areas where the shattered crematoriums once stood and the now overgrown death pits that once spat the remains of the dead into the air.
“The album I wanted to create has been brought to life by JD Tait to tell the story of why, when and where the Holocaust happened.
“When part of the human race slides into absolute madness, it takes the courage of those left in the sane world to make good the wrongs of the lunatics.”
He added: “I also do not intend offence to Jews, but the Holocaust isn’t just their lamentation, it is a world view atrocity to which everyone is emotionally linked.
“The arguments over how many died in the death camps makes no difference to the indisputable fact that hundreds of thousands of old people, men, women and children were murdered because of a vile racist ideology spouted by a violent and egomaniacal political policy.
“The revisionists and Holocaust deniers can rant and rave about Zionists owning the world’s media and milking the sympathy vote for Israel for as long as they choose, but murder of innocents on a vast scale through mass shootings, starvation and brutality most certainly occurred and the atrocities documented most definitely happened.
“The progression towards the Holocaust from the last album, The Murder of Jesus the Jew, seems a completely natural one, as both are unavoidably linked in the meandering paths of history.
“Without Jesus, there would be no Christian Church, and without that lumbering institution, there would be no inbred hatred for Jews, which would nurture the intense antisemitism that was festering in Europe during the centuries preceding the rise of the Nazi movement.”
Metatron continued: “One part of the Sonderkommando album is to show that Adolf Hitler was but a spark that ignited this tragedy of history.
“I don’t think you can cite Hitler as the main cause for the Holocaust. He was its ignition point, but the fuse had been lit when the Pope condemned the Jews for the murder of Jesus.
“Hitler, though culpable on many accounts, was only a piece of a very complex sequence of events that led to the Holocaust.”
Metatron believes that one of the reasons Jews were victimised was because they are “remarkably good at maintaining communities within communities” as groups that “set themselves apart always attract prejudice”.
The album’s cover art was specially painted by Aisha Al-Sadie.
“There are no political motives for creating the album,” Metatron said. “Take the track Last Train to Eden, at first glance a title that bears no relation to Auschwitz and yet it was Himmler’s vision to create a Germanic agricultural Utopia in Silesia, hence the title’s two-sided meaning.
“The Holocaust has spawned both abhorrence to the tragic stories of the victims and sympathies relating to its perpetrators.
“Sonderkommando is a journey into the abyss of man’s inhumanity. It tells of a place where all that becomes of a human being is a half a kilo of ash.
“It can only glimpse this world of total brutality borne from the age old irrational implementation of murder on racial grounds.
“If the oceans were filled with ink and all the forest’s and trees were pens, even then it would not be possible to record the horrors of Auschwitz.”