New York grind outfit Yesod is equal parts smart and scathing in their approach to heaviness. Their debut effort Divine Coma was released earlier this year and tears through seven tracks of vicious, gritty grindcore followed by a half hour of noise and abstraction over the course of its five additional offerings. We spoke with bassist/vocalist Tony about the band’s inception, mysticism, magic, and the themes of Divine Coma. Listen to the record here:
AA: Tell us a little bit of the backstory of Yesod, how did the band come together and how did it initially take shape?
Y: The framework of what eventually became Yesod started a few years ago. Will (the drummer) and I were in another band together called Fenrismaw, and we got together with Paul (the guitarist) to work on a new project. I had known Paul from when I was in Okosu, another regional death metal band. Yesod was to a certain degree put on the backburner until Fenrismaw split up, but after that happened, we were all able to focus a combined effort into getting Yesod off the ground. Before we started, and before we even had a name, all we wanted to do was write Cursed songs. But, as we kept collaborating, and especially when we brought Nate (the keyboardist/noise artist) on board, our songs morphed into something completely different.
AA: Your first effort, Divine Coma, was released a few months ago. The record is divided into two separate parts – the first half being dominated by dense, punishing grind, while the second half is a series of electronic/noise tracks collectively entitled ‘Emanations’. Can you tell us a little about what your intentions were by dividing the record into two parts that way, and how each half is reflective of the band’s approach?
Y: Most occult studies in one way or another address the concept of duality; that for everything that exists, there exists an equal, opposing force. Duality, the thing and the other, its opposite twin, is a major overarching theme we explore lyrically and conceptually with Yesod.
The EMANATIONS side are a collection of Nate’s isolated tracks from the recording process. We originally didn’t intend to include them, but felt they stood up on their own, and helped to inform the story we are telling.
AA: As far as the first half of the record goes, it plunges directly into grind territory, and maintains a frantic pacing with a few dense, sludgy passages. As far as stylistic touchstones go for the band, what are some of your influences?
Y: Musically, we all share similar tastes in some things, but everyone’s influences are across the spectrum. We are all extremely good friends, and our friendship is something hugely important to all of us. We all admire and respect one another a great deal. As a result, our song writing process is one that comes organically, almost effortlessly. It was important to us to write songs outside of a constricting framework—if we all like it, we continue working on it, regardless of if it’s grindcore, death metal, or whatever other permutation of extreme music exists.
Lyrically and conceptually, a big influence is Deathspell Omega. Their belief that the band’s message is told across all forms of media they communicate with—musically, lyrically, and visually—is something we try and emulate. Everything in Yesod is inextricably linked: our music, our lyrics, our artwork and our live show are a united front, combining all of these different facets into a cohesive whole.
AA: Divine Coma also covers some interesting ground lyrically, can you provide some insight into some of the themes presented in the songs?
Y: To talk about Divine Coma, I have to dip briefly into explaining the practice of magic. It is, essentially, a form of meditation; however, it is meditation with the intent of arriving at a desired outcome. Instead of opening oneself to the universe and experiencing it passively, the practice of magic shapes one’s mental fortitude, beliefs and will around the universe to achieve a desired effect. Chaos magic, to this degree, is a special form of magic, borne out of an understanding of two things—that the concept of universal truth is a sham, and as a result, various differing schools of magic can comingle. Belief itself is a malleable tool, and can be shaped to achieve a desired outcome. A chaos magic practitioner has the freedom to change schools of magic at will, to pick up and drop off various schools as needed, instead of rigidly adhering to one or another.
To this end, DIVINE COMA attempts to tell a story through these means, because the story is told through various belief systems—we reference Valentinian Gnosticism, G.I Gurdjieff’s teachings, the book of Job, The New Testament, fractal geometry, Qlippotic studies and magic, Hermetism, medieval demonology, numerology and Gematria, among other things, and we try to wrap all of these disparate elements together within a punk ethos.
Another way to look at it is to have a basic understanding occult beliefs. Occult translates literally as “hidden,” and is nothing but knowledge by which to better understand the world. The occult permeates everything. So, lyrically, we attempt to reconcile social and political issues we feel strongly about with esoteric teachings, telling a story by fitting these two elements together.
At the heart of the story we’re trying to tell on DIVINE COMA is that of imprisonment, through various psychic and physical means. However, we try to make it a point to not be authoritative on anything within the band. Extreme skepticism of everything is a value vitally important to us, and we hope to instill this value in anyone interested in Yesod.
AA: Yesod’s art is laden with symbolic references; if I’m not mistaken, the cover of Divine Coma features the Enneagram of Personality, as well as references to the Kaballah (including the name of the band itself). Care to expound on the presence of those symbols and what they mean in the context of the band?
Y: The Yesod is the 9th sefirah of the Qabalah. The Qabalah, or tree of life is, at its core, a way to understand human consciousness through Jewish mysticism. It is a road map through the human experience, as understood through our relationship to God. Specifically, the Yesod is the “axis mundi” of the diagram—it is where the infinite meets the finite, where the large becomes the small. The Yesod communicates the spiritual teachings resident in the sephirot above it to the Malkut, which is a representation of the measurable, physical world we exist in. It’s a metaphor for what our goals are with the band, lyrically and conceptually.
The enneagram is originally attributed to occult teacher G.I. Gurdjieff, who believed that the universe could ultimately be reduced to two laws—that of the “law of three” and the “law of seven.” The law of three dictates that for every force in the universe, there exists an equal, opposing force, and a neutral force in between these two forces. The law of seven, or the “law of process” explains that everything in the universe operates within a particular progression. Movement through this process explains why systems fail and succeed at different junctures. It is not necessarily synonymous with the concept of entropy, although the two are loosely related. Additionally, dividing 1 into 7, 1/7=.142857 repeating, and in the enneagram, a line is drawn to connect the numbers 1-4-2-8-5-7, making its way around a triangle connecting the numbers 3-6-9, within a closed loop.
There are seven songs on DIVINE COMA, each a part of the whole, and five qlippothic emanations of those songs. The structure of the album is roughly divided into three parts, as well.
AA: Yesod is one part of a resurgent heavy music scene in the Hudson Valley region of Upstate NY. What is your take on that area at the moment, and are there any highlights in terms of bands/shows/venues for you there?
Y: You know, I hear people complain endlessly about local music scenes wherever I go. As with any music scene, it’s a constant uphill struggle for every band, and the people into it for the wrong reasons will fade away, while those few, quality bands will rise to the top of the heap, in one way or another. Generally speaking, I think local music scenes could be less apathetic, myself included in that judgment, and easier on the bands. “Pay to play” venues are a scourge on local music and should be eradicated. As for great local grindcore bands, BILLxNYE and DOOMSCENARIO from the Hudson Valley are killing it, and ORGAN DEALER from New Jersey are going to blow up in a big way, very soon.
AA: What are your plans for the future? Shows/tours in the works, any writing or additional releases coming up now that Divine Coma has established your footprint?
Y: No tours planned, we’re all working stiffs. We are aiming to play regionally in the Northeast as much as we can. We have a skeleton outlined for an eventual three-part trilogy, each album tackling three classical modes of argument, the ETHOS, LOGOS and PATHOS. We’ll have information on these albums as we develop them.
Thank you to Tony and Yesod for the thoughtful responses. Check the band out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/yesodofficial