TORMENTOR - Hungarian Malady

September 16, 2001, 21 years ago

by Chris Bruni

tormentor feature

They might not be the most prolific black metal band, possessing an even more elusive aura than Mayhem, but Hungary's Tormentor are one of the pioneers. Long before black metal was given a standard, one could say that Tormentor had already embraced that essence which would become the law. In 1987 they recorded their 7th Day of Doom demo and in 1988, their legendary Anno Domini release. To say that they had grave impact on the Norwegians would be a severe understatement.

But it wasn't until after the release of Mayhem's De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas that more people would take note of the obscure and chilling voice that belonged to none other than the legendary Attila Csihar. Tormentor was broken up anyway, Attila at a certain time in his life going through a rough and disturbing period, dabbling with illegal substances through depressing periods. Ultimately his reputation was as the singer who sang on De Mysteriis. But ten years after the recording of Anno Domini, Tormentor has reformed. Attila and original drummer Zsolt Machat deciding to resurrect its corpse in 1998 with a new line-up and now have released what is said to be the most controversial and bizarre extreme album of the year.

Recipe Ferrum is a slap in the face to commercialism and the degradation of a scene Tormentor helped form, a vile brew that mixes elements of hard rock, blues and avant-garde. Let the mysterious Attila justify his action...

"I love black metal, but I didn't want to do the same thing with Tormentor" says a very polite Attila. "I wanted to make different music; to try and expand this black way of music into another form, like black n' roll or something like that. But we also didn't know what we wanted because it was not possible to keep the old line-up because it has been ten years now. So we had to find out what we wanted and we decided we didn't want a normal black metal line-up, not find black metal guitarists and do something very bizarre and strange. That's why we have this blues guitarist playing in a black way. It was just a vision but we almost didn't know what we wanted for sure. We didn't want to make a commercial album. We wanted to make a bizarre and extreme thing and see this black way of music from a different point of view."

Recipe Ferrum is split into three parts, the first part being comprised of cool soothing and uneasy dark offerings, surreal in character but something that none would expect. From then on the album tends to slide on a different angle, sounding like some sick joke, taking the boundaries of insanity and offensiveness to their extremes.

"The first part is for the Western people," explains Attila, "for the old fans. The second and third parts, we wanted to make it strange in an insane way. The second part is in Hungarian, for the Hungarians. It's about three Hungarian figures: Paprika Janesi is a grotesque figure in Hungary, like a jolly joker. The second figure is this Hany Istok which is based on a legend of a man who lived in Hungary in the 18th Century in a lake. It was very legendary because this figure was a freak and at the end of his life he became a freedom soldier. Very strange. And the third one is Monyok, a figure from the most ancient Hungarian tale, the son of the white horse which is about the sun god.

"The third part is complete insanity," Attila says in joy. "We wanted to make the worst song in the world, we wanted to make it as shit as possible. And I think we did."

But there is just nothing out there that sounds like this. Maybe a little too conscious of trying to be too different?

"This is the way," marks Attila. "And I know people are waiting for some brutal and faster music like we played before. But I am not very keen on a lot of new black metal out there. If we played the same way maybe we would be in the second line somewhere. Also I played in Mayhem and with Emperor and for me it was not a big thing in my art to do the same. I like experimenting in my life with music and that's why we changed. Maybe now it's not so clear but I hope that we can continue. Maybe the next album will be more concrete because it's very hard when you are not following any steps to what you have done before. It would be interesting too if we make music like this as a refreshment for the people and of course we will do a bizarre show. When we play live it will be very strange, strange face paint and strange clothes."

What were you doing in your absence from the scene?

"I stopped the music because I felt damned that all my bands were failing. Tormentor split, Plasma Pool (Attila's esoteric techno band) split and also Mayhem split in a very strange way. Also I got married, had my son and I had to do the things with my family. I am also a teacher, I teach mathematics and physics but you can't live here in Hungary by teaching. I had to find out what I wanted to do in my life, but of course I turned back to music."

Nonetheless Attila is one of the most unique and best vocalists in extreme music. No matter what project he undertakes, Attila's vocals are the forces of nature and darkness personified.

"Thank you very much. I have been singing since '86, but I believe that I'm also a medium, not just a vocalist. I need the atmosphere and that's why for me, the best thing is to play live. I love it. I can have the force from somewhere, from the other dimensions, the spirits and somehow I can do them best live. So I think I'm kind of a medium and I have to go in a trance to get a very good voice. Like in the studio with Mayhem, it was total darkness with candles and I had to let myself into a trance in the studio. I need that atmosphere."

Attila's vocals on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas are the most uncanny, disturbing and darkest vocals in black metal history. Please recount your days with Mayhem...

"I know that I made different vocals than other black metal bands," recounts Attila. "But Euronymous and Hellhammer basically gave me the instructions and Euronymous liked it very much when I showed him my way. He loved it. It was a bit confusing for me and strange because we had to hurry in the studio and sometimes I think I could have done them much better. But you know, an artist like me, I am never 100 percent satisfied with my job and I know that in the beginning my vocals were strange and the people were confused. But in two or three years they understood."
"The feeling in Mayhem was very special, and at the time Mayhem wasn't a big star band like now. I was reached by Euronymous and he wanted me to sing in Mayhem because I was the favourite vocalist of Dead. So the atmosphere was very strange. There was the big underground movement and the church burnings. So it was good. Euronymous was like my brother, we started to plan the future and at that time you should know that I wasn't just the session vocalist with Mayhem, I was the vocalist. But times have changed..."

Indeed they have, this proud Hungarian defining his existence and his art by his center belief. The sign of the sun...

"I believe in the force of nature and the spirits of nature. The essential Hungarian religion is the sun belief. The ancient Hungarians were sun believers. If you asked me what god I believe in, it would be the sun god. But you have to define first what you define as god: a universal force which is appearing everywhere or you can define it as a point. If you want to define it as one thing it would be the sun because it's very symbolic. It gives the force and energy."

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