Upon first sight, the artist going by the name Shazzula is a striking figure. Tall, dark hair cut in pointed bangs, always clad in black, and an air of danger surrounds her. I first became aware of the Belgian mystery woman through her involvement with the triple LP compilation and occult film, Black Mass Rising, which she directed and released on her label (which she runs with French vinyl veteran Philippe Marie) under the same name in 2011. The release became somewhat of a cult object, featuring music by esoteric figures including Master Musicians Of Bukkake, Makoto Kawabata (the incredibly prolific Japanese artist with more than 100 releases to his name, mostly known for being the leader of Acid Mothers Temple), Mater Suspiria Vision and French occult black metal band Aluk Todolo.
But Shazzula doesn’t only have a great ear for spaced out, demon-summoning, mind-altering music, she creates it with her current band Wolvennest of which she is the vocalist and synth-sorceress. The band was immediately picked up by Ván Records (The Devil’s Blood, Urfaust, Wolves In The Throne Room), and recently held live rituals not unlike intimate black masses at Roadburn and Acherontic Arts Festival.
And her black magic doesn’t stop there, Shazzula’s cinematic work includes music videos for iconic doom metal band Electric Wizard, The Secret from Italy and she’s currently working with Bobby Beausoleil and Blood Axis. Her latest project is a video triptych named “The Spirits Trilogy”, a project that is divided in three parts and was filmed in Mongolia, Iceland and will be filmed in Peru, Mexico and Scotland. In her own words, The Trilogy is “a conceptual video installation in which the audience will travel between time, space & parallel universes guided by shaman, guided by the music, the sound of the tambourine, it is a trip… and a true science fiction inspired work.”
The first part of her ambitious film will be unveiled this fall under the name ‘The Essor’, accompanied by a soundtrack collaboration with Austrian hurdy gurdy (an unusual stringed violin/keyboard hybrid instrument) master Matthias Loibner and acclaimed violin player Warren Ellis, who has played with Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds for the past two decades. This unique alliance will be released in vinyl form on Black Mass Rising in September, and performed live in Brussels later this year.
Lastly, Shazzula wouldn’t be the nomadic mage we know her to be if she didn’t have even more magic up her sleeve… The second and last parts of the triptych, ‘The Cromlech Dance’ and ‘The Secret Pathways’ respectively, will be conjured when Shazzula takes her residency in South America and the Isle of Skye, where she will continue to work and reflect on The Trilogy.
Words: Clio Leeuwenburgh
Shazzula takes us on a journey to 11th century Scandinavia with the opening track of her Liner Notes selection. The ominous instrumental piece composed by Peter Peter and Peter Kyed for Valhalla Rising, accompanies a brutal tale of a pagan warrior (portrayed by a particularly rough looking, one-eyed Mads Mikkelsen) who escapes from captivity and joins a group of crusaders in search of the Holy Land. Perhaps due to the bloodshed that comes with religious zealousness, the film directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Neon Demon, Only God Forgives) was a flop by Hollywood standards, but remains a visual beauty with the music playing a central role.
After the victorious Viking battle, our fearless sorceress leads us South, to a spaghetti wasteland with radioactive beaches painted by Heroin In Tahiti. The self-proclaimed Italian ‘death surf’ duo opens Shazzula’s chosen track with an alarming shriek, but slowly builds up to a psychedelic ceremony, perfectly segueing into tribal electronic soundscapes, with a heavy nod to maestro Ennio Morricone.
To continue our voyage, we must go deeper into a place of mysticism and worship. As the descent into darkness begins, ritualistic sounds emanate from the depths of ancient catacombs and the mysteriously droning synth draws us in. Also from Urbs Aeterna, the Eternal City, Ain Soph have been deeply ingrained in esotericism since the mid-80’s, the band’s name derived from Ein Sof, a Kabbalistic term for "The Infinite," (Heb. אֵין סוֹף; lit. that which is boundless). The Italian group has released their industrial and ambient offerings on their own cult label, Misty Circles, as well as international labels such as Staalplaat and Cthulhu Records.
As co-founding member of avant-garde krautrock group Can and as a solo artist, Czukay has been a prolific musician since the late 60’s. The German musician became a pioneer in sampling, and experimented with shortwave radio sounds from an early age, demonstrated in this unique piece. The voices of the women singing come from the ’65 vinyl compilation Music Of Viet Nam, a song originally called Love Song (Doh Dam Tara) which became the base of this 17-minute long ambient track.
Staying in the realm of German krautrock, Damenbart leads the way to dissonance; a haunting prog convergence of synthesiser, organ, guitar and echoing vocals. While the never-released album was supposedly lost in the 70's and the master tapes found in a studio years later, it was probably recorded in the late 80’s by the experimental trio. A fine trip to outer space nonetheless.
Named after the ancient Roman high priest of the god Saturn, French experimental prog outfit Flamen Dialis is like a layer cake of sounds: mellotron, harmonica, flute, keyboard, guitar, percussion, and more each seemingly playing a completely different song! Somehow it comes together in a delightful work of art that wouldn’t be misplaced at a mad tea party in Lewis Carroll's Wonderland. Shazzula came across this gem that was reissued by a small Belgian label called Papaaver Records, which was founded by musicians of 'funeral folk collective' Sylvester Anfang.
Here is where Shazzula leads us to the Secret Temple of Laylah, which reads: “Who wishes to enter this world of darkness, in which the Great Goat dwelleth, may pass through the sigil of Oz given at the front of this Cover.” The obscure Austrian one-man project hypnotizes the listener like a snake charmer entrances a King cobra, the rhythmic drums awakening spirits of past and present. The human bones and skulls (yes, really) used as instruments complete the cosmic ritual as we return to the world of the living. When asked about this mysterious vinyl artifact, Shazzula tells me her copy of Zero Kama was a gift from the founder of the band, Zoe DeWitt: "I met Zoe last summer in Vienna and we had a great time and even had a jam sessions with synths, great experience."
Arabic sounds fill our ears when we encounter a known figure on our quest for aural enlightenment. He greets us in the form of Jimmy Page, the Led Zeppelin guitar God perhaps only surpassed by Hendrix. No stranger tot he occult, Page once owned Aleister Crowley’s 18th century residence, where the magician famously performed a 6-month long ritual in attempt to summon a celestial being. Page originally wrote the Lucifer Rising film score for fellow occultist and eccentric filmmaker Kenneth Anger, who commissioned him for the project. Unfortunately the collaboration turned sour and the music was never released as a part of the film, and Anger hired Bobby Beausoleil (while incarcerated for his involvement in a Manson family murder) to compose the score. In 2012 Page finally decided to release the 23-minute recording on vinyl, limited to 418 copies - the Kabbalistic number that appears to have great significance to Aleister Crowley's The Book of The Law (1904).
The name Kalacakra (Sanskrit कालचक्र, translates to ‘wheel of time’ and is a next level esoteric Tibetan buddhist teaching) clearly suggest an influence of the far East, confirmed by the flute and sitar used in this beautifully composed mantric acid folk song. Snarling German vocals give this psychedelic duo an mysterious and sometimes threatening vibe, like a witch casting a spell. Interestingly, the band only released one album in 1972, which was reissued several times by the well-known Garden of Delights label, before returning for a sophomore record thirty years later.
Slowly drifting out of the Garden of Delights, Shazzula leads us into new botanical but man-made surroundings. Exotic chirping birds and croaking frogs intermingle with traditional Persian instruments (stringed setar and tar), underscored by pulsating robotic bleeps and noises. By combining old and new elements, Dariush Dolat-Shahi has created a unique ambient experience that falls somewhere between world music and experimental electronica.
Following the left-hand path, Beherit (the Syriac Aramaic manifestation of - who else? Satan) awaits us in a dark ambient prayer to Inanna, the ancient Sumerian goddess of love and war ("a lady of battle / a lady of love"). Hailing from Lapland, the unholy congregation spewed a handful of demos and other recordings in true pig-decapitating, corpse-paint smeared black metal form before transmuting into what we hear on this track: a hair-raising demonic voice layered over a monotone synth-heavy melody. Taking a Page from Jimmy's book, the diabolical trio named the album H418ov21.C (House 418 of 21st Century), a clear reference to Crowley's sacred text of Thelema.
The melancholic turn taken on this penultimate track with Hitori (Japanese for: Alone or one person) Bon Odori (盆踊り, Bon dance - a centuries-old custom honouring the spirits on one's ancestors) can be attributed to the ghostly echoes and sorrowful acoustic atmosphere created by American artist Set Sothis Nox La. While this particular song is reminiscent of neo-folk enfant terrible Death In June, the entire album takes an experimental approach to what could essentially be the soundtrack of your night terrors.
Shazzula's final gift to us listeners is an industrial piece by Italian techno producer Honzo, who mercilessly collides hypnotic droning beats with distant hallucinating oriental vocals in an acid trip to his own self-described "bipolar disorder". Operating under various monikers, solo as D. Carbone and as part of DJ duos 3TH, A Und D and Repitch, the Berlin-based master of soundscapes recently started his own eponymous label, Carbone Records.