Metal music, like any cultural expression, is shaped by its surroundings. The Stone hails from Serbia and started out in 1996, in the wake of the black metal boom. Not much later the Yugoslavian civil war broke out, turns out this is actually audible on their debut record.
This did not put any breaks on the band though. The Stone has been going steady for more than 20 years, creating a steady output of records with classic black metal. Their sound is powerful, without trying to sail along with any trends or movements, simply black metal.
The band has recently released a new album, titled ‘Teatar Apsurda’. That and seeing them live was reason enough for me to get in touch and ask some questions to singer Nefas and guitar player Kozeljnik.
Serbian black metal kings
How are you guys doing?
Nefas: Not bad.
Kozeljnik: Doing fine so far. Busy with promoting the new album we’ve recently put out.
For people who are not familiar with The Stone, can you tell a bit about how the band got together originally?
Nefas: Classic story…that begins in 1996. We were just kids who wanted to play music they like. The Stone is some kind of artistic pact between Kozeljnik, as the composer, and me, as the lyric writer. It works last 22 years…and it works fine so far.
Kozeljnik: Back in time of our gathering the initial idea was to form the band, the entity of Black Metal which defines the art within uncompromised line of musical and lyrical expression.
Many black metal bands go through periods of lesser inspiration, sometimes years, before releasing new albums. The Stone has consistently been delivering new music at regular intervals over the last 2 decades. What is the drive or motivation behind the band that makes you keep on delivering top class music?
Nefas: Simply, we really enjoy creating the music. Some kind of artistic madness drives us…
Kozeljnik: A sort of creative appeal madness which takes us every time when the art leads the way to the upper states of creativity. It’s not a cliché when saying you are dealing with a certain kind of ritualization of your art. It’s the rite of your subconscious which delivers magic.
In line with that, you also all have plenty of side-projects. Can you say a bit about those and how do you keep those going at the same time?
Nefas: Actually, I never had a side-project. Kozeljnik always had a surplus of ideas he presented through his other bands/projects like Kozeljnik, Murder, May Result, Occulus…
Kozeljnik: Sometimes the creativity extends the defined lines, so there’s a need of having other artistic sources, like different bands and projects where you can execute your ideas, is a natural step for the artist.
Your latest release is Teatar Apsurda, which is your eight full length. What can you tell about this album, it’s creative process and it’s message/expression? To me, the title itself might be a good reflection of the world at large in at this time, is that something that you took along in creating this album.
Nefas: Yes, Teatar Apsurda is a view of the world through the eyes of pessimist, satiric review of human grotesqueness. It’s fast, aggressive, intensive black metal, yet chaotic and epic in the same time. We are very satisfied with this album. Definitely, our best shot so far.
Kozeljnik: We’re about to say that after many years we finally recorded the album the exact way we wanted to sound. It’s not that we are displeased with previous works, but this new one simply transcends our expectations.
How do you guys go about creating an album? Is it a similar process for every record? Since there’s definitely a continuity in your sound and the overall feel of music from The Stone through the years. What does the process look like?
Nefas: First and the most important step would be making a vision, the common vision that will be driven with no compromise. Everything else would be just a routine after all these years. It just got out of us.
Kozeljnik: On the other side every new record has a different perspective of creating, a dimension which goes beyond the borders we’ve delivered for the previous ones. It’s a challenge, to express your inner state within the new, refreshing ideas and forms which are, at the same time, carrying the mark of your own identity. We decided not to walk the familiar footsteps, but still keeping the same path.
Your record is out on Mizantropean Records, is that your own label? What prompted you to release through Mizantropean instead of Folter records, which you’ve released the previous albums?
Nefas: We wanted to have an absolute control and freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want. Mizantropeon Records is our own label formed primarily to provide better work conditions for The Stone. And for the beginning, we are very satisfied indeed.
Kozeljnik: It’s not a secret if we say that bands and labels are natural enemies since the creation of music business, especially when it comes to controlling the freedom of creativity. After many years of dealing with other labels, we have decided to be enemies to ourselves, trying to control something which hardly can be controlled. So far, we do not regret our moves.
In your early days you used Slavic paganism as inspiration, later it was more nihilism, misanthropy… In an earlier interview, I read that you expressed that these were never meant literally, but more a starting point for your expression. Can you explain how that looks for both the paganism and the more recent themes? What is the idea you try to put into your music and what do you hope listeners take from it?
Kozeljnik: The Stone’s lyrical side was most of the time misinterpreted in the past, especially by the non-speaking Serbian media circles which declared our band as pagan just because our 2nd and 3rd albums deal with times before monotheism took its role. Judging from that point of view they can easily proclaim Mayhem as a pagan metal band, just because they have a song called Pagan Fears. Not so professional way of giving a conclusion. Anyway, we’ve never considered our band as pagan oriented, despite the fact that in the past we used heathen inspired lyrics which were based on Nefas’s individual approach strictly. His quill has the most significant poetic role in expressing The Stone’s message and definitely, it’s a powerful tool in the band’s arsenal.
The Stone started out as Stone To Flesh during the time when your part of the world was in a total uproar due to the civil war. As I’ve understood from previous interviews and other articles, the scene in Yugoslavia was just beginning to appear at that time. I’d like to ask you how that scene started out and which bands were instrumental in it and how the civil war influenced it and you as a band in your ability to create music. Can you tell about that?
Nefas: The civil war has changed many things in our lives, but I’m not sure it had any influence on our music in a creative way, maybe on our subconscious. Technically speaking, everything was harder to do in war surrounded country, isolated…, but we survived. On our first album, we included the intro, the true sound of NATO bombs falling on Belgrade heating a plant. That’s the exact piece of the warlike atmosphere in which we worked on our debut album.
What’s happening in the current Serbian metal scene? And is it in any way connected to the neighboring countries of former Yugoslavia or are you drawn more towards other countries? Which bands should people really check out from the current scene (and why)?
Nefas: We never had a massive scene, but we have some quality bands to mention. My personal favorite is deathrash legion Infest. As for black metal, try with Kolac, Zloslut, Wolf’s Hunger, Samrt…
What does it mean for The Stone to be a band from Serbia? Is there something typical and unique that you take from your culture, history or even nature in your country that to your view, colors or impacts the way you and/or other bands from Serbia make this sort of music?
Nefas: We took the pillar of our culture, Serbian language. Native language gives you the opportunity to express yourself better.
Kozeljnik: Serbian language, with its strong accent, gives us more radical, yet aggressive audible approach to the art we create. During the years we’ve created our own style and usage of our native tongue definitely has a strong impact on that.
Black metal has been gradually changing and taking new forms in recent years. I’m interested to know, what to you defines black metal? Is it something ritualistic, does it need to be ugly or can it be beautiful… How would you define this music now, after having played it for so long?
Nefas: For me, Black Metal is the art of controlling sonic madness in order to make the obscure atmosphere suitable for expressing the negativity and narrating the inner gloom. It’s the darkest corner of musical art.
What future plans does The Stone have at the moment? What are you aiming for in 2018 or will this be a time for the side projects (if so, what are you focussing on)?
Nefas: We have tour plans with Inferno and IXXI settled for March and after that we will enter the studio to record 2 new songs for the upcoming 7”ep. That’s the plan for next six months.
If you had to compare The Stone to a dish or type of food, what would it be and why?
Nefas: A piece of bread and a glass of water, if you are hungry, you will enjoy it.
Is there anything you’d like to add? Please add it below.
Nefas: Nothing more, the point is said. Just to thank you for the support.