Okkultist is a rising force in the extreme metal scene, known for their intense and intricate blend of black and death metal. With the release of their debut album, Reinventing Evil, in 2019, Okkultist has been making waves in the metal community and gaining a dedicated fanbase. Their latest album, O.M.E.N, promises to showcase the band's growth and evolution since their debut, with even more complex and diverse songwriting, powerful lyrics, and a haunting atmosphere. We had the opportunity to sit down with Okkultist to discuss the making of their latest album, their Metal Hammer feature, their creative process, and much more.
How did you guys come together and create what we know today as Okkultist?
Before I start replying. Thank you so much for this opportunity, we’re truly so grateful to be featured on the platform of a brand we’ve worked together for many years, and who we dearly love so much!
Okkultist started back in 2016 when I turned to our co-founder Leander Sandmeier and randomly asked “Hey, do you wanna do a death metal band?” to which he replied, “fuck yes, what are you gonna play?” I told him “I can scream” – at this point, I hadn’t told anyone I had started learning how to growl, which I did by driving around in circles and screaming in the car trying to mimic songs of Death and Cannibal Corpse.
So from then, we decided to just get a group of friends and jam. No serious thought. No name. We didn’t wanna take it that seriously, we just wanted to get together, have a good time, and play some brutal music at some old dude’s garage. Later on friends would hear us play, and it became a word-of-mouth type of thing until we somehow booked a show. We had no songs, no name, nothing.
We came up with Okkultist (which was the name of a collection by Rogue+Wolf I was working on at the time, and asked them if I could use the name, to which they enthusiastically replied “FUCK YEAH”, we created the songs we made in our EP “Eye Of The Beholder” and then boomed. People really liked us.
In 2018 we signed with Alma Mater Records, and we released “Reinventing Evil” in 2019, but then the pandemic hit and we couldn’t do anything. Like many other bands, we took the time to reinvent ourselves (pun intended), and came up with “O.M.E.N. (Omnis Malum Et Noceo)”, which is an audio-visual experience that had a single premiered through Metal Injection with “Meet Me In Hell”, and the full album premiere on February 17th on Revolver Magazine which included our video for “Death To Your Breed”.
What inspired the name Okkultist and how does it relate to the music you create?
Initially, I had suggested something different (which we made a nod to “Thy Blood, Thy Flesh, Thy Sacrifice” – go find the easter egg if you got this far into the interview), but we concluded it was too long and too hard to pronounce. I pulled up an email and was like “Hold up… What about “Okkultist”? Sounds so good”, to which we all agreed and kept. When it came to creating the concept for Okkultist, I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted this band to be a beast and not a 5 member project. Okkultist is an entity with its own personality. Okkultist is a demonic being summoned from the occult realm. It’s raw, it’s cruel, but it’s fair… And a bit witty sometimes.
Let’s jump into the O.M.E.N. How did you approach the recording and production process of the new album? Did you face any unique challenges during this process?
Our biggest challenge was by far having time. When the label proposed a second album, we already had a lot in mind, so in creative terms everything went as smoothly as it possibly could’ve, the problem was, that we had an incredibly short deadline, which we somehow managed to follow! We created the entire album in 3 months and had another couple for recording – which was where we found our second major problem: technical difficulties.
The album was recorded by ourselves, at home, apart from the vocals because I did not have any sort of professional equipment, so I decided to record them with Pedro Paixão at the Moonspell studio. Later in 2022, we dropped the surprise video for “O.M.E.N.” and then our first single, which was premiered through Metal Injection, “Meet Me In Hell”, then in January 2023 our cover of Children Of Bodom’s “Sixpounder”, and then in February our album dropped, with our video clip for “Death To Your Breed” being premiered on Revolver Mag.
Time, and technical difficulties, truly were our biggest challenges.
What kind of influences and inspirations do you draw upon when creating your music?
We all make sure we are creating something that stands out. I’m widely aware every single band and musician says this, but our identity comes from our death and black metal combo. We are all death metal fans, but my vocals gravitate a lot to black metal, I feel like it fits with my natural timber. So, when we get together to create, everything flows incredibly easy. Leander and João have a lot of melodic influences, like Children Of Bodom (thus us making a cover of “Sixpounder”). Both David and Eduardo are able to bring the groove to it. Although their background is slightly different, they bring the whole dimension together. While I’m more influenced by bands such as Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult. It’s this mix that gives Okkultist its own peculiar feel.
How has your sound evolved since your debut album, Reinventing Evil?
The major difference is that we didn’t hold back. We knew exactly what we wanted to achieve with our second album, and how much further we wanted to go in terms of creativity and complexity, while still keeping the Okkultist stamp on. People often forget that Okkultist is a relatively recent band – it’s my very first band actually. So, with the first album, naturally, the label wanted to have more input, but with the second one we were completely free to create our vision, and the label approved it entirely and were always incredibly supportive of it. We were all incredibly happy with how the entire vision, in all its aspects, came together, and the results speak for themselves. We all agree it was a major “step up” from Reinventing Evil, which is what we wanted and accomplished.
How was it being featured in January’s issue of Metal Hammer Germany?
That is a bucket list goal for loads of bands out there. Oh man, it was A DREAM COME TRUE! We were almost in disbelief when we were told they wanted to feature us. I remember answering to all the questions during my downtime on tour with Amaranthe last year (which, as a photographer, videographer, editor, etc., it wasn’t much). I sat in my little corner just thinking about how every single decision I had taken in life led me to that exact moment, sitting on a tour bus with an amazing crew, replying to questions from a magazine I’ve followed for years about a band that Leander and I created without ever imagining how far it would take us. There really are no words to describe how amazing it felt!
Can you discuss the artwork for O.M.E.N and how it relates to the album's themes and overall sound?
We actually had the cover art ready around October 2021. We already had plans to make this happen, and I already had the entire concept built for the album. So, I hired Felipe Froeder (aka Arcano XV) who was the most incredible and sweetest person ever. He understood exactly what the assignment was, and when I first looked at the cover I was like “holy shit, this is it, this is the beast we talk about in our songs”. Nothing was changed, it was perfect the first time!
Beatriz mentioned to me in a brief chat that she handles all visual aspects of the band. Is there a specific reason you guys decide to do this all independently?
This simply happened in a natural way. I’ve always worked with visuals my entire career (amongst other stuff), so it felt more than obvious to combine my visuals with our sonority, and there was never a doubt about it. Everyone has always been on board with every idea that came to mind and would all just immediately jump into creating it. Another reason is, obviously, for a financial matter. It makes it easier if I invest my time and talent into creating these visuals myself. Even though there’s no type of compensation “per se”, I take the opportunity to explore as much as I can, not only because I want to be able to bring the very best of my abilities to this band, but also because it allows us to have full and completely creative freedom. So, in the end, we see this as an advantage on our side, rather than a fault.
How has your experience been working with Alma Mater Records, and what kind of support have they provided for your music?
We love working with Alma Mater Records, we feel as though they took us under their wing and adopted us. The label has always been able to see our talent and ambition from day one, and they allowed us to grow in the best and healthiest way possible. They are always on board with our ideas, and they make the make sure we are able to accomplish our goals the best way possible. There’s a lot of effort from both ends, they know we work really hard, and we know they care about us, so things always work out because our team is really tight.
Can you describe your creative process when it comes to crafting your stage presence and live performances? We haven’t been to a show (hopefully that will change soon) but from what I’ve seen online you guys are very focused on the ambience and mood of your stage presence.
We devote a lot of our time to curating the perfect atmosphere. We want to make sure that the show is as immersive and intense as possible – within our limitations as a small band, of course. But the more time goes by, the more we’ve been able to invest in sharpening the edges of all aspects. The shows are so intense, in fact, fans started calling themselves “Kultists”, we’ve had people claim our new album has a deeper and more powerful meaning, so of course, we want to bring that intensity visually as well.
Now we count on an LED structure, I handcrafted the boys’ vests myself, I do at least 3 wardrobe changes, we have resin bones I modified and painted too, we also work on a little theatrical moment, and we’ve really put a lot of work into making our vision come to life. And as far as the shows themselves go – we’re beyond stoked to see that every single venue we’ve played (alone and/or with other bands) has been packed, and so many people have such a wonderful and positive response to it, not to mention all the people that come from different countries just to watch us play. I mean… We have no words to describe this humbling feeling!
What are your goals for the future of Okkultist, both in terms of your music and your impact on the metal scene?
We believe with this album we’ve started to establish our identity a bit more firmly, and we aim to contribute to the blackened death metal realm as much and as uniquely as possible, not just musically but visually as well. We hope to bring as many “Kultists” to our church as time goes by as we can, and we aim to give them a physical and spiritual otherworldly experience. But on top of it all of this, of course, we aim to have a good time, and to bring everyone a collective sense of inspiration.