Bringing together elements of crust punk, black metal, noise and ambient music, German band Ancst is anything but your run of the mill metal band. Their debut full length ‘Moloch’ is a vicious statement against fascism, racism and the record brims with anger. Released through Vendetta Records and Yehonala tapes in early March, the album saw a wider release through Halo of Flies. The band is currently gearing up for their tour of Europe to promote the album and we managed to ask them a couple of questions regarding the album, their political stance, the DIY scene and much more. Here is what Ancst had to say…
Transcending Obscurity (Shrivatsan R.): Hi guys. You are set to begin your tour of Europe next week. How excited are you guys?
Ancst ( Torsten): What’s up? Thanks for inviting us doing this interview with you. Yeah, this upcoming tour is my first chance to leave Berlin for a longer time. I got stuck here for like the last 6-8 months due to work and real life stuff. But i think the time has finally come to get into the infamous Van-Boy-Mode for 2 weeks. I will hopefully meet friends and family within this two weeks and hang out with many other lovely people. I begin to feel some excitement as i am writing this…
Ancst (Tom): I am always super stressed out before tours because there is so much to do and to think of, but my excitement begins on our second tour day. Count on it. I’m looking forward to be on the road.
TO: ‘Moloch’ has been getting some great reviews online. Do you guys feel that the message you’re trying to convey through the album, has translated well? How have audiences responded to some of the socio-political topics tackled on the album?
Ancst ( Torsten):To be honest, this is the first release, where people start to ask particular questions concerning the lyrics and politics behind that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we’re fingerpointing the whole time and try to preach some sort of political agenda or ethic. But we definitely see ourselves and of course most parts of „society“ as political actors, whether its active or passive. We’re unfortunately not the biggest speakers on stage, this makes it a bit harder to start a conversation about topics which are important for us, but sometimes we do have some discussions afterwards, which range from very weird (when it comes to this Burzum/NSBM/etc. thing) to very interesting (gender roles/empowerment/booze/etc.) But overall the response is more than I ever expected, when I started writing lyrics for the first two songs off our demo.
Ancst (Tom): Like Torsten said, its the first time people ask about the lyrical topics we deal with on “Moloch” and hey, I’m happy about that. I think that not so many people really read lyrics anymore, so its kinda nice to see some response from the crowd. People that usually dig our band are mostly fine with the topics we discuss in our lyrics. Same with the people on our shows. You know I guess people see us as a metal band but the truth is we are mostly playing hardcore shows and for a hardcore crowd. The topics we deal with on “Moloch” are not really new or shocking to an audience like this.
TO: While Ancst’s music carries anti-fascist, anti-racism views, the general black metal crowd tends to lean to the far right of the political spectrum. Have you guys ever faced backlash from audiences at gigs, who might disagree with what you’re trying to convey?
Ancst (Torsten): We never got offended or even attacked directly at a show, but we do get some viral bashings from time to time, because we don’t seem to fit into the picture of a „traditional“ black metal band, whether its music-wise or in regard for our lyrical content. C’mon, I mean, we’re all hardcore kids and I learnt really a lot about myself and the perspectives, society seems to lack from. I got into veganism, anarchist ideas, I met so many lovely people and some of my closest friends. I don’t need to convince people to do the right thing anymore, I am not even the biggest role model, although I got two kids. But I do carry a lot of frustration inside of me and Ancst is a perfect chance for venting all this shit out of me.
TO: We see increased incidents involving racism, the refugee crisis and islamophobia across the world. To what degree has the current political scenario in Germany and Europe shape your music?
Ancst (Torsten): It always had an impact. My mother’s family migrated in the mid 60’s to Germany, and i got confronted with racism my whole life. My point is that this and many other isms are still deeply rooted in the modern world and especially Germany doesn’t seem to have learnt as much as it should have, if we take a look at the past. So the developments of the last two years don’t surprise me at all, it saddens and makes me feel numb instead. This world seems to become a more and more desillusionising place. Luckily these emotions turn into something more creative as soon as I am making an appointment with Tom to fuck my vocal chords up.
Ancst (Tom): Everything you mentioned had a huge impact for the lyrics on that album. It’s hard to ignore these days. Racism is everywhere and with the ongoing refugee “crisis” the situation and the political climate in Germany has drifted to the far right. There have been over 1000 attacks on refugee shelters in Germany since 2015 and the whole Zeitgeist sadly reminds me of the early 90’s, which were dominated by racism. Ancst is a katalyst for Torsten and me. If other bands wanna sing about Satan, vikings, dragons or partying, let them. I need a vent for my frustration and believe me I’m pissed. I need to deal with this kinda shit.
Ancst (Torsten): A society can be changed but only if we as participants change ourselves individually. This can happen through socialisation, education, etc. And of course the individual desire to change. We limit ourselves as a DIY-collective on several levels. The music we’re creating is not predestinated for the average mainstream music consumer. Unluckily these people are the ones, which are in the majority, so they should have the power to change things into something better. Most of the white first world citizens are clearly having more than one option to develop their personalities and most of them are taking the wrong directions, imho. But who am I to categorize into good or bad, right or wrong, black and white? 2016 stands for grey in grey, as did the years before. Music can be an agent of change, I don’t want to negate this at all, but it depends on open-minded people, which need to be able to create an emotional connection to what we’re doing in our music. Basically it’s mostly about this emotional connection.
TO: Let’s talk about the music. How did you land on this mix of black metal, ambient music and crust punk? What are the bands that inspired your sound in the early days?
Ancst (Torsten): It’s the stuff we listen to at home. I like listening to melodic and some technical death metal, but got mostly stuck in this mid 90’s Hardcore/Metalcore-Phase. I think metalcore is THE catchphrase…but I like a lot of other stuff, too. I am a huge Deftones-Fan and i enjoy a lot of the parallels between DIY-Punk and HipHop/Rap, like the claim to educate, critisising social misconceptions, or just to create an outlet for emotions. Besides that I am open for anything that touches me…
Ancst (Tom): I dont know, it just kinda happened I guess. I was socialized with extreme metal and later with hardcore and all its sub genres so I guess what Ancst sounds like, kinda reflects our crossover listening habits. For bands that inspired us somehow we really need to mention Ulver, Immortal, Heaven Shall Burn, Tragedy, Madame Germen, Ictus, Iskra and select songs by Amon Amarth.
TO: Of all the different elements that make up Ancst’s music, the one that sticks out are the ambient passages. While black metal and crust punk are somewhat of a natural fit, the idea of ambient elements is fresh and out of the box. How did idea take shape?
Ancst (Tom): I dont wanna shatter your world but the whole idea of releasing ambient outputs next to the usual metal stuff is not really new. A lot of black metal bands did that in the past already so I was like, why not. I knew that Burzum did a few ambient only releases while that douchebag was in prison but the band that really got me into that is Ulver. They were never afraid to challenge their audience by coming up with something new. Music wise, Lustmord really played an important role when it came to dark ambient. Before that I was mostly into noise and drone and more about the caveman pedal worship than working with synths and computers. I also like releasing loads of stuff so it was the perfect plan to do it like that. Luckily some of our fans like that stuff too, there are even a few that just listen to the dark ambient outputs.
TO: Tom also runs a DIY record label. What kind of bands do you generally associate with? Are there any pre-requisites you look for, before you sign the band?
Ancst (Tom): You know, I mostly deal with bands that I am friends with. I’m not really searching for new bands to sign or anything like that. It’s really a small label, I don’t put out that much stuff and I don’t have massive distribution or anything like that, so thats why I don’t understand why bands that I don’t know wanna be on my label anyway. When I started the label 10 years ago musicially it was all about mathcore, chaotic grind and hardcore and some cyber bands. Nowadays I release a bit of black metal from time to time and noise and ambient releases for friends of mine. I’m a fan of keeping a low profile. And there is no signing involved ever. Handshake deal awesomeness
TO: Enlighten us on the DIY scene in Berlin (or Germany in general). What are bands similar to Ancst that fans should check out?
Ancst (Torsten): I am not that good with recommending similar bands, but I know and strongly support the bands from our entourage or whatever you may call it – Henry Fonda, Sinatra, Ast, Haeresis, Derbe Lebowski, Bomb Out, Femme Krawall, Totalitarian Principle, Tooth Decay…sorry to all the others I lost in my drizzly memory. The scene in Germany and in Berlin is not too big and not too small. Many relationships made within this scene are not out of commercial interests, it’s the passion for music or similar ideas and perspectives that connects people. Or just friendship. I know Tom for like 10 years now, we traded fanzines, I did catering for his shows back in the days and I maybe even did knock the shit out of him in one or more hectic moshpit situations, haha. Or Stefan, the guy behind Vendetta Records. He runs one of the best record stores in town together with Robert and Norman, released our three last records on vinyl and I still remember him going totally off at the very first show of Final Prayer in a tiny bar in Berlin together with 149 other maniacs. What I want to point out is that there’s no clear separation between label-bosses, bands and fans. We’re mostly all of this most of the time in our lives.
Ancst (Torsten): A guy (Tom) knows a guy (Stefan) who knows a guy (Cory).
TO: Tell us about the ‘Into the Vortex’ split you recently put out on Yehonala tapes?
Ancst (Tom): Well, we had had splits with other noise artists before but its kinda special with this one. When I used to play drums for Afterlife Kids a few years ago I talked to Bastian from Sun Worship about a possible noise split between both our bands and we bothed liked the idea. Like it is so often, we forgot about it till the point where Ancst was slowly getting much more into the ambient stuff and I picked up on our little chat and we decided to do a split release where both bands would just contribute an exclusive noise jam. Tooth Decay and Voydn are a whole different story. Peter from Tooth Decay has been a friend and supporter of both, Ancst and Sun Worship, and has also released a few tapes through Yehonala before so it was kinda a quick decision to add him to the line up. Voydn is a new dark ambient artist from eastern Germany that I have worked with in the past and because of his sound he was an enrichment for this release. So its all people that somehow know each other from Berlin and that like noise. If you are into that kinda stuff, its a cool release, check it out.
TO: Thank you guys for the interview. What is next for Ancst? Anything you would like to convey to the readers?
Ancst (Torsten): Thank you again for asking us these questions. Well…we’re touring Europe with our friends in Thränenkind from May 13th until May 28th. Check the dates online, come to our shows and have some cake, uhm, chat and fun with us. After the tour we’re playing some festivals during the summer and a couple of weekenders in the second half of 2016. All of us are involved in several other bands/projects/etc., so we’re pretty busy. We also do have some written instrumentals for possible releases in the future and some other ideas, which will reach the surface as soon as the time is right. VOTE QUIMBY!