On the Heights of Despair
CoC discusses life and music with Yuri Theuns from Wilds Forlorn
by: Johnathan A. Carbon
Wilds Forlorn is a very new and powerful black metal act from the Netherlands. Comprised of one member with peripheral contributions, Yuri Theuns continues in the tradition of one man outfits in a solitary exploration of beauty, despondency, and black metal. Yuri comes to us with great enthusiasm and a very humble outlook regarding his music. He is almost as excited to discuss this album as we were listening to it.

CoC: _We, the Dammed_ was released at the beginning of this year. How does this new album compare to your 2009 record _A Great Loss_? Do you see it as a continuation of themes?

Yuri Theuns: Actually, _We, the Damned_ is the first Wilds Forlorn work in which the concept of "wilderness" doesn't really play a significant role. All previous works were very centered on that idea, that -- as Hobbes called it -- "bellum omnium contra omnes"; a state of war of all against all. I think we would fool ourselves to believe a return to wilderness would lead mankind into a "harmonious life with nature" or something like that. Wilderness is savage and cruel. That is not to say it can't still be preferable to life in contemporary society, though. _We, the Damned_, however, is much more focused on existential issues, on the tragedy of existence and the great dichotomy of affirmation and negation. Such elements have been a part of Wilds Forlorn from the very beginning, but have been moved to the forefront with this album. In a sense, the album, specifically the title track, narrates the last two and a half years of my life.

CoC: Getting a hold of you proved to be more difficult than normal, as you have rejected most forms of social media. Is this rejection of current technology a part of a larger mindset or just personal?

YT: To be honest, it wasn't even any sort of statement or anything like that. It's just that MySpace chose to become the number one user unfriendly social media platform on the Internet and I'm just not particularly fond of most other available options, at least for my music-related ventures. BandCamp is becoming increasingly popular and it's a pretty good no-bullshit platform. I should like it to stay that way. I was thinking of putting up contact info on the blog, but I'm not so eager to put up my e-mail address for the whole digital world to see and send me copious amounts of spam. I could use a specific Wilds Forlorn e-mail address, but I'd have to regularly check it or find a way to relegate the mail to my regular e-mail address somehow. I haven't really looked into that yet.

CoC: Wilds Forlorn has always been a one man solo project. _We, the Dammed_ has wonderful passages of strings and piano. Are there any instruments which present more challenges than others?

YT: Definitely the piano. I'm sorry if I'm about to disappoint you, but I don't really play that many instruments; only the guitar, keys and I can play some simple tunes on a tin whistle. The rest is, sadly, all digitally programmed. I'm not a guitar virtuoso, but I can usually play the riffs I come up with without too much trouble. I tend to use lots of weird chords and long chord sequences. The guitar solos on "Traces" and on another track I'm working on are performed by F. ter Welle. I gave him complete artistic freedom for the latter track and I think he did an amazing job. The most difficult thing is finding the subtlety to play a very, very slow and melancholic piano part just right to bring out that feeling I look for and make it sound the way it does in my head. I should further note here, that I have only started to seriously learn how to play the keys since a year or so, which means that all the piano parts before that time were not played by a human, although I have laboriously spent hours upon hours to try to tweak the sound and the individual notes the way I wanted them. What bothered me, though, was that there were no mistakes, no human flaws, and you'll find many of those on _We, the Damned_. Recording those piano parts was a good lesson in patience.

CoC: You've almost always released your albums for free on BandCamp or various other sites. I believe I first came into contact with your record on a torrenting site. Do you feel it is important for your music to be free?

YT: Well, at first, I simply distributed my music for free via MySpace, since I didn't think anyone would be interested anyway and I just put the download link up there for personal relatives. As it turned out, _The Great Loss_ caught the attention of some people outside of my sphere of personal relatives, which was pretty unexpected, because I didn't think people even knew about the existence of my little MySpace profile. From that point on, I suppose the support steadily grew, although I was still baffled at the reception _We, the Damned_ received. I have seen quite a few negative reactions as well, of course. Anyway, I don't do gigs and I don't have to pay for studio time, so Wilds Forlorn doesn't really cost me any money, and for some reason I feel that making profit with my music would corrupt its honesty somehow.

CoC: In terms of influences, how does the work of United States black metal (Wolves in the Throne Room, Agalloch, Skagos) fit into your universe? Are there any other musical influences which contributed to your direction in music?

YT: I've been a fan of Agalloch for years, and I like Ash Borer a lot too. A lot of good bands have sprouted up in the US in the past few years. Agalloch have probably unconsciously been an influence on me. In terms of musical influences, though, I find I draw a lot of influence from contemporary minimalist composers, such as Ólafur Arnalds, Arvo Pärt and Clint Mansell. Often, an incredibly simple and subtly melody in my head is what gives rise to a fiercely aggressive metal passage as well, or is transformed into it if that works better for the melody.

CoC: What about any other influences, whether literary, film or any personal experience?

YT: I have spent hours upon hours reading and then re-reading Schopenhauer's "The World as Will and Representation", and I remember drunken nights with Cioran's "On the Heights of Despair". Lately, I've been delving into Nietzsche's works. Apart from philosophy, I'm inspired by stories of people who left society to live a vagabond's life.

CoC: Do you have any views on the current evolution of black metal compared to the Norwegian style (Emperor, Burzum, Darkthrone) or even the first wave (Bathory, Celtic Frost, Venom)?

YT: Tough question. I am certainly no expert on the genealogy of black metal. I have always seen the first wave as being a darker offspring of thrash, but it was the second wave that gave rise to what constitutes the essence of black metal for me: a sense of extremely despondent, poisonous hatred and sickness. This may be coupled with some ideology or another, but all the greatest black metal bands, in my eyes, have some form of depravity present in the music that is more perverse, more degenerate than usually found in metal. It seems to me that some of the bands generally referred to as belonging to the "third wave of black metal" are moving away from that depravity and portraying instead some sense of awe for nature in a more "beauty-affirming" way, if that makes any sense. While I appreciate that, I think despair is a much deeper, more personal emotion to explore.

CoC: _We, the Dammed_ is an incredibly tolling album in terms of emotional content. Is this sense of grief and loss retained only to your music? Is it a catharsis? Is this despondency something that is carried into your everyday existence?

YT: A pretty confrontational question, but that's alright. <laughs> Above all else, Wilds Forlorn is a vessel for me to express myself, a way to vent some things I have nowhere else to go with, which is also why it's a solo project. I'm not as lyrical as the writers I admire, so instead of writing, I express myself in the abstract, with music. I think emotions portrayed through music are stronger when they're sincere.

CoC: Favorite metal album of the past year?

YT: Primordial - _Redemption at the Puritan's Hand_. That band just seems to keep getting better and better.

CoC: Favorite personal album which is somewhat upbeat?

YT: I'm afraid I'm going to have to pick more than one here: Rome - _Flowers From Exile_; Clint Mansell - _The Fountain_; Ludovico Einaudi - _Divenire_; and Arvo Pärt - _Alina_.

CoC: Are there any plans for live events?

YT: I'm afraid not. To have the music sound more or less the way I intend it to, it would take six or seven people to play some passages and just one for the piano or ambient passages. I don't think it would work well. Plus, if Wilds Forlorn were to become a complete band, I would have to create a new solo project to get my personal things out.

CoC: Well, we all thank you for being here with us. We wish you the best of luck with _We, the Dammed_.

YT: Thank you for having me.

(article submitted 3/6/2012)

6/3/2012 J Carbon 9 Wilds Forlorn - We, the Damned
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