Brant Showers is a sonic pilgrim whos creations, be they under the ∆AIMON moniker, SØLVE or his role in Bestial Mouths, have long interested, fascinated and in many ways, spoken to me. For that reason, when I came to find that he
s about to release his second SØLVE album I reached out to inquire about any possibilties for a review/interview as much of his work features references to alchemy and other parts of occultism that I myself utilizie heavily in my own music. Below you will find my review of EARTH INFERNO alongside an interview with the man behind it all.
SØLVE is the solo project of Brant Showers (of the band ∆AIMON) and serves as a means to explore difficult personal concepts of self-reflection, anima/desire, and ritualism. With roots in industrial, witch house, and dark atmospheric sound design, SØLVE uses occult themes to form the basis of his intense yet introspective output. Since the release of his first EP, ‘svovel | salt | kvikksølv,’ in 2013, SØLVE has quickly garnered attention in the dark electronic scene through remixes, shows, and festival performances – as well as through his numerous releases – including his newest full-length, ‘EARTH INFERNO,’ to be released on June 7th through Re:Mission Entertainment.
I believe we have talked about this before in private but let`s go over it once more for the readers; What is the meaning of the name SØLVE and is there any signficance to our useage of the letter Ø as opposed to the English O?
Well, in 2013 I started SØLVE as a way to work through some personal issues without having it reflected in any of the other projects I’m involved with. I wanted the focus of it to be ritualistic (and especially Jungian, Kabbalah, and alchemy themed), so I felt using the first part of the SOLVE ET COAGULA process was appropriate – the dissolution and breaking down before rebuilding. This project has continued to operate from that perspective – as a practical exercise in breaking down everything from a psychoanalytical and spiritual angle. I like to joke about always breaking and never building, but that’s actually very accurate. I suppose SØLVE will change if I ever make it to the next step in the process, but in the meantime I’m thankful to have this project for the important purpose it serves me. The choice to use the letter Ø was mostly rooted in wanting to honor my Nordic heritage and add a personal touch since it’s a solo project so closely tied to my identity and individual self. A lot of the songs play around with double meanings in language as well, so I appreciate that both the Latin and Norse variations have their own specific definition (with the Nordic translating to ‘silver’ – an element also important in the alchemical direction of the project).
Many things about EARTH INFERNO stood out to me immedietly, beyond the title which we`ll get to in a second one of the things I noticed was the number of tracks. 13 being a number of significance in a variety of spiritual traditions around the world combined with your obvious occult/alchemy references does make one wonder wether this was done on purpose?
May as well cut right to the core of the album. When I first started production on EARTH INFERNO in 2019 I was in a bad place feeling incredibly lost and adrift – hitting my 40s with no real career path or direction, and feeling further and further isolated away from the music scenes that I grew up in. It’s all stuff I’m still very much working through, but was at its worst around the time the pandemic started hitting everywhere. Then civil unrest, insurrection, and BLM protests became an important part of our daily lives and it just seemed that everything was coming to a boiling point all at once. Originally I intended for EARTH INFERNO to be an EP centered around this theme, but a lot happened in the following two years, most significantly my family suffered an incredible loss that completely changed everything for everyone. At this time (literally the day of the funeral) my wife and I learned we were pregnant with our first child – and so we were confronted with the enormity of celebrating extreme joy while also deeply grieving someone so important to us. It’s a profound feeling that I can’t begin to describe, but has impacted every facet of my life and my outlook ever since – especially after I began to realize just how interwoven the two experiences are. As the album developed from this overwhelming mix of emotions, it only made sense for the track number to reflect it. As most know, the Death card in tarot represents both physical death as well as a metaphorical catalyst of change and the spiritual immortality that comes from it. I always work numerology and divination references into my production, so it was an obvious choice given how the final theme of the album came about.
SØLVE releases always has such excellent artwork, for this album you
ve got a piece from CVSPE, was this made specifically for the album or was it a pre-existing piece of theirs? If the latter, what was it about it that spoke to you and felt like itd be a fitting representation, or if it was commisioned, what ideas and perhaps visual references were brought up in its creation?
Thank you. For this album I commissioned art specifically for the album cover from CVSPE after seeing their work on instagram. Their style fit perfectly with what I had in mind so I tried to avoid interfering too much with their visual process. I mostly just pointed out some of their own previous work that suited the themes and sent over some of the demo tracks so they would have an understanding of the direction of the music. They were immediately inspired to create the art that you now see on the cover and I am absolutely pleased with the result.
s talk about the title: EARTH INFERNO. Id imagine the majority of the S&S community may recall the Fields Of The Nephilim release by the same name which of course brings us to your common source for it: Austin Osman Spare. How would you say A.O.S, chaos magick or generally the occult influences your work or perhaps even the manner in which you work?
This was an instance where I knew what the title of the album was going to be from the first day of recording, so even though I came across the FOTN album during my research, I still had to see it through. Plus, I have enough respect for FOTN to feel fine about our shared influence. That said, where previous SØLVE releases have dealt more with shadow work and my personal path towards awakening, with EARTH INFERNO I wanted to focus on the profane and temporal human experience. Of course, my beliefs and occult interests still inform my perspective, but I didn’t want to minimize any of the hardships of existence by trying to elevate them to some form of allegory. Likewise, Austin Osman Spare’s work is deeply critical of the human experience, he himself notorious for being incredibly antisocial. In EARTH INFERNO he especially concerns himself with the concept of blindness – oblivious to our condition and the illusion of truth – in what he refers to as Life’s Nightmare. This outlook was an important influence and permeates throughout the mood and framework of the album as a whole.
While not written by A.O.S I
d say its fair to have books like the Liber Null (Peter J. Carroll) come to mind when talking about this particular section of the occult world. If you`re familiar with the idea of the Psychonaut, are these practices and methods something you work with or maybe incorporate in the creative stages of a song or even complete album?
Oh definitely. My first serious interest in Magick began in high school when I was drawn to counterculture aspects of the occult (especially through Grant Morrison’s ‘The Invisibles’ and the Disinfo books edited by Richard Metzger), so Chaos Magick was a perfect fit for my angsty teen self rebelling against dogma and societal structures. As I’ve grown older, for whatever reason, my path has taken me deeper into older traditions like Kabbalah, Hermeticism, and neoplatonic philosophies, but there’s still a lot from the works of A.O.S., Carroll, and Phil Hines that have stuck with me to this day. My first album, ‘the negative,’ was especially steeped in the idea of presenting the music itself as a type of sigil, a charged intention – that is very much in line with Spare’s methods. I don’t do as much sigil work these days, but you could argue my fixation on track number is already a big indicator of its influence on my album crafting. Another important teaching of Chaos Magick that I take to heart is that basically any chosen system’s efficacy is entirely determined by how well its symbology speaks to your particular subconscious. So all systems are equally valid as long as they work for you. These days, my life experiences have made me more open to the influence of outer forces, but I still prefer to view everything through that same psychoanalytic lens as elaborated on by Spare and Chaos Magick.
Three of the tracks bear “Inferno” as its subtitle. A reference to Dante Allegheri and the circles of Hell or is this something else?
The use of the Inferno subtitle for those particular tracks is my way of denoting album versions from previously released mixes of the tracks (two songs were released as singles and two appeared on compilations). I liked the term Inferno as it ensures an understanding that these versions are in line with the album’s tone. I brought out the frayed and rougher elements in the mixes and added appropriate noise textures, etc. (re-recording drums and vocals as well), to lean into the idea of “Inferno” as this hellish landscape – unforgiving and uncompromising. The allusion to Dante is definitely appropriate for what I’m hoping to convey.
Switching over to the material realm for a moment ; How is your creative process as far gear and such is concerned? Do you have a dedicated method , specific tools be they software or hardware or is it depending more on the time, place and specific song perhaps?
The intention with this release was to work quickly and efficiently so as to avoid overthinking anything. I wanted it to reflect an immediacy throughout and so it was important to streamline the recording process. I also wanted everything to have a sonic consistency and evoke the feeling that it was all recorded in the same studio session, so I mapped out a template of sounds – mostly the main drum kit, as well as guitar and bass tones, and a few synths that carry throughout each track. Normally I’d mix up the palette more between songs, but the continuity of the shared sounds really adds to the cohesive quality I was after. To keep everything as intuitive as possible I wrote and recorded all the rhythms and melodies with guitar first, then played the drums “live” with an electronic Alesis mesh kit. This is a totally different way of working for me, as I usually do much more programming (for both synths and drums), but I really enjoyed the performance element of recording this way – and especially get a lot of joy out of playing behind a drum kit. This process gave the album a bit more of a “rock” direction than I think people would normally expect from me, but it’s what felt natural for this release. I also used this opportunity to play around with some outside-the-box hardware, so the textures and noise elements come from handmade instruments as well as the MakeNoise 0-Coast, the Korg Volca Modular, and the Korg Nu:tekt NTS-1. They’re all perfect for adding the proper level of drone, static, and unpredictability.
Recently you took to Facebook explaining your feelings towards getting ever so closer to the release of this album. You spoke of anxiety and a sense of restlessness regarding having spent such a big chunk of time on its creation and the anticipation of sharing it with the world, a feeling I`m sure all creative spirits will relate to. What do you think are some of the main themes of the album, what parts of your Self are we being presented here?
Indeed, I’m sure it’s a very common feeling for anyone putting themselves out there through art and creativity. It’s not easy to be so vulnerable in a craft where you’re purposely drawing attention to yourself. With this album I aimed to present the most insecure parts of myself. I happen to be in an incredible relationship surrounded by strong and supportive people that I love, and yet I can’t help but find ways to constantly feel lost and insignificant. A lot of that probably comes from that same artistic temperament and need for validation, while other fears can be attributed to recently losing a loved one or being a new father – what mistakes will I make as a dad and how much of my mental health issues will I pass on to her? Not to mention the concerns about the world she’s inheriting from us. It’s all a lot of anxiety already – and still growing. So that’s the Self being presented. As for the main theme of the album, I touched on it a little earlier – specifically the intense connection between love and devastation. They’re not separate ideas, they are two necessary sides of the same coin – but that doesn’t make it any less cruel and unfair. Life is full of absolute beauty and passion experienced through the sincere connections we share with others, but we pay heavily for that joy. Trying to come to terms with such a profound range of highs and lows has significantly impacted my perspective on day-to-day interactions and the weight of our role in others people’s lives. It’s something I will never take for granted ever again.
On perhaps a less personal note, you mentioned how this album doesn
t cater to any particular elements associated with the industrial genre, specifying the lack of "easy club accessibility". Im sure you`re well aware of the evolution of the genre and how different it is today from the eary days of Coil, Throbbing Gristle and so on. The common denominator between you and them being the total disregard of genre as well as the involvement of esoteric ideas, do you feel any kind of kinship to the early pioneers of industrial at all, if so how do you think they may have influenced your approach?
This one’s a little tough to answer for those who aren’t aware of my long and conflicted history with industrial music. I’ve been listening to the genre since I was 12 years old, starting with the obvious gateway bands and eventually working my way back through its history – becoming incredibly obsessed with all things TG, PTV, and COIL along the way. It may just be depression, but honestly my taste for music in general comes and goes, so that I often can’t listen to anything other than just ambient or noise for long periods at a time. Thankfully there’s always Throbbing Gristle and the more esoteric COIL releases to fall back on when I can’t stomach anything else. So to answer your question, I’ve always identified strongly with those artists and am profoundly attracted to their perspective on music. When I started studying audio engineering, the interest came from a long-standing fascination with emotional responses to sound – the way that certain tones will build anxiety, certain phrases bring about paresthesia, and all the other instinctual reactions we have. It’s my understanding from interviews that Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Peter Christopherson were also interested in experimenting with ways to evoke different experiences through their music as well – so I definitely feel a kinship in that regard (as well as what you’ve already stated in terms of genre and esoteric ideas). Relating to their influence on my approach, that’s harder to point to. Again the esoteric principles are a huge influence, and stylistically it’s evident, but I’m a complete Virgo in my methods – which seems very disparate from the stories I’ve read about their recording sessions…
To close things off why don`t you give us some reccomendations of music, books or whatever you want to share as well as info of any coming events for people to look out for.
Thanks for the amazing conversation, I greatly appreciate this level of detail and discussion. Listening to music is often a struggle for me, but right now I mostly put on Haunted Horses and Witch Fever (who both have new albums coming out later this year), as well as HEALTH, the new Executioner’s Mask LP, and the hundred different releases that grabyourface has been involved in lately. For books, keeping it relevant – everyone should obviously read Earth Inferno and The Focus of Life by Austin Osman Spare if they haven’t already, as well as The Tree of Life by Israel Regardie. In terms of works that have influenced SØLVE in one way or another, I’d also recommend: Demian by Herman Hesse, literally anything by Cormac McCarthy, Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones, and Art Sex Music by Cosey Fanni Tutti. A movie that completely floored me recently was POSSUM. And I guess I should let everyone know that they can join me on Matt Fanale/Caustic’s twitch channel (twitch.tv/causticmf) on June 13th for a listening party where everyone is welcome to ask any questions or talk about whatever they’d like in the chat with us. Thanks again!
EARTH INFERNO opens up with the short intstrumental piece “”LAMPBLACK” fading into existence and exploding into a dark and grungey form of controlled chaos complete with almost melancholic melodies that act as your welcome into this journey through the mind of Brant Showers. This is how you open an album, this is how you write an intro. Immediatly we`re plunged into the single “NEVER+ENOUGH” , an upbeat dark yet danceable lamentations of the failure to live up to the expectations of oneself or another. Sound design wise SØLVE always hits the nail on the head as it were, crafting and shaping things into something of his own that gives it all a sense of being nstantly recognizeable and not easily mistaken for the work of any other artist. A rare achievement indeed.
It may be worth noting the repeated line towards the end: ” I`m digging my way down ” which is exactly what it feels like as the we arrive at the gates of the track number three. WASHED IN THE BLOOD feels like descension. tribal like ritualistic percussion over gentle yet threatening synths screech along morphing into a melody accompanied by the mid paced drums and trip-hop esque hihat..well..triplets.
Vocally this track feels commanding, there are no doubts as to the conviction in Brant
s voice as he warns, or perhaps threatens to salt the earth behind him, to burn bridges and what Ill interpret as an incoming rebirth of sorts perhaps?
RELEASE once again showcases great sound design of SØLVE in it`s opening seconds featuring what reminds me of lead synths constructed from feedback. Something about the atmosphere of this tracks has me thinking of albums such as The Fragile by Nine Inch Nails.
WRITTEN IN THE STARS both sounds and feels grand and large. Musically it gives off the feeling of slowly falling towards the ground, or perhaps the seemingly never ending moment we find ourselves existing in upon receiving some particularly bad news, now, misunderstand me correctly; It
s not simply a somber tune, theres anger, resentment and despair aplenty here but presented from what might perhaps be a more hopeless angle.
LOST IN THE DARK is the perfect balance between angst and determination. Both lyrically and musically it drips with a fuck you attitude, a refusal to give in and let yourself fall into the maw of despair. The track can truly be summed up in one word with that word being: Grandiose.
NOTHING PURE continues the angst filled lyrics with Brants insistence on the lack of purity, worth and fairness in the world. A seniment I think we all have felt at certain points throughout life and given the events that influenced this album and the themes explored here it
s quite fitting and understandable that one might arrive at such a standpoint. Musically its a cacophonous decay that features the buzzing of flies perhaps feeding on the carcass of hope. It`s frentic and yet it has a sense of control.
SVNT LACRIMÆ RERVM is an instrumental piece that seems to perfectly express the emotional spectrum suggested by the title without the need of lyrics. Something that may be easier said than done. I
m not surprised to find instrumentals throughout the album as Im sure many of the emotions that went into this can often seem to be beyond what something as limited as words could ever describe. Often sound alone is the only way to convey certain states of being. Clocking at four minutes and twnety one seconds it`s an ever evolving journey that keeps you at the edge of your seat awaiting the next twist and turn.
BLACK SILK STONE was recently released accompanied by a video (see above) and this song has played in my mind ever since. As can be said about the majority of this album it
s a song with fairly short and direct lyrics that doesnt hold back or make you guess as to their meaning while at the same time being fairly open to interpretation, paradoxically enough. The song sounds almost like a chant or a mantra of sorts, like a choir of self declared sinners asking for redemption through their hymnals. The melancholic piano melody contrasted by the aggression of the drums and synth work makes for an interesting push and pull dynamic.
HARM//HEAL slithers its way towards you with a dark and seductive rhythm as the chant like vocals speaks to the idea of remaining fearless and weathering the storm. There seems to be some orchestral elements in here that really adds to the feeling of this song acting like waves in the ocean that sway from big all consuming to smaller more manageable ones but still enough to keep you cautious of your surroundings, not letting you fully believe you`re all good and fine.
VOID-OF-COURSE clanks and scrapes as mangled and broken sound plays just beneath the surface before march like drums carry us over the fire and places us back at the clanking and scraping for a moment, letting us catch our breath for just a moment before Brant asks us to keep the faith and dont give up on him in a monotone yet sincere manner.
FOUR SWORDS comes in as second to last track of the album with static crackles and distant swelling synths that morph into a piano playing its morose melody just floating over the static and noise. This is ne of those songs you get lost it. It ends and it feels abrupt, not because it necesarily is but because you could so easily have it go on endlessly.
We arrive at the end of the inferno and we`re greeted by the words I MYSELF AM HEAVEN AND HELL.
Lyrically it reads like a chant, like a channeling to charge an aural spell. hectic hats click their merry way for a couple bars as broken sound waltzes with screeching synths all while a simple piano plays in between it all really taking the idea of the title into sonic shape.
All in all this a well put together album, well produced, interesting sound design and manages to combine the experimental with catchy moments that stick in your brain and makes you run to the replay button. I know as time goes by I will make more observations as I peel back the layers of each song, this review is only scratching the surfaces of it all. I urge you all to pick it up, give it your full attention, really focus and sit with it. This is not background music.
Purchase/Stream EARTH INFERNO and follow SØLVE via the following links: