Something wicked this way comes… Like Ex Deo, the Canadian death metal side project from Kataklysm’s Maurizio Iacono, The Heretic Order are a band who seek the fantastic in human history. Dealing with heavyweight themes such as philosophy, witchcraft, paganism and religion as a form of control, the band imbue their intensely entertaining music with real lyrical heft and so we were delighted to have the opportunity to sit down with Lord Ragnar (AKA Danny Fellice) and discuss the foundation of the band, the themes that underpin their music and the need for careful presentation in order to entice the masses into their dark world.
A passionate metal head, for Danny, The Heretic Order is a lifetime ambition made real and, as he gleefully explores the themes that underpin his lyrics, there’s a sense that he’s found the perfect outlet for his boundless creativity. Enter the world of the Heretic Order, but tread softly for there are dark forces at work here…
To what extent do you feel the experiences you had in Breed 77 helped to grow the Heretic Order?
Well, it gave us the confidence to get the band going quickly. With the other band, we had a full career and lots of experience touring around the world and doing big shows and stuff like that, but I’ve always wanted to do some proper heavy metal and the chance to do Heretic was a lifetime ambition to do the metal thing!
When you formed Heretic, it was based around Ragnar and Rotting Skull, how did you find the other musicians in the band?
The Count came from a friend’s recommendation, so we knew he was a metal player. Also, we’ve got a new drummer called Doctor Pain. We changed drummers, but the other guy was a friend as well that we knew from the London scene. It’s key to get the ideal members of the band – you need to stabilise your line up and then you can create rather than just go in circles looking for personnel.
How do you develop the music for Heretic order? Do you create music independently or work together and jam ideas out in the studio?
The ideas are elaborate so they’re created lyrically first, and then we take it to the studio and we jam around and stuff like that. But for the core of the songs I normally do all the lyrics and then the guys chip in musically.
Is it important to you, given how conceptual and theatrical the band is, to get the lyrics done first?
It works both ways. Sometimes the music comes first, but the lyrics are very important because we are… I don’t know how to describe it… We’re not a Satanist band, but we love the occult and the spirit world and I, myself, am very interested in all that – spiritualism and ideology. It’s a concept that we bring to the band and there are loads of songs orientated in historical characters. I’m a big fan of history and the dark moments of humanity are loads. You don’t need fiction to get scary – humans are quite horrible themselves. I read history and Medieval books all day long, so there are loads of things in my head I want to put in songs.
You mentioned history, but, I think, there’s also a very earthen sense of paganism in your work as well so not Satanism in that Aleister Crowley evil figure sense, but more Satan as a figure misrepresented throughout history?
The concept I have of life is that everything is a human creation really. Earth and nature is the real thing… you can argue until tomorrow, but it’s real. Religion: Christianity and Islam, they argue what they can, but it’s not proven. Nature is proven. It’s here, we are the product. So, I think that the old way was really pure for humanity. The Celtic tribes here in England and even the American Indians; all around the globe Paganism and the sense of humans being just another animal connected to the earth – it is a reality. So, that’s a very big part of the Heretic order. The word Satanism – Satan simply means ‘adversary’. In the Jewish religion, actually, Satan as a concept doesn’t exist. Satan is the duality of people. Satan… everyone’s bad or good… there’s no good or bad in nature, nature isn’t good or bad, it just is. The concept of good and evil is man-made. So yeah, in a way, we’re very pagan in that sense. We’re just trying to tell stories about this – not give you my idea about this. I’m not Aleister Crowley saying “Hey Look, Satan is good and blah blah blah” Like I say, I don’t believe in Satan as a figure. Satan was created by Christians and if you go to Judaism, which predates Christianity, they consider Satanism an inner self – the duality of people. I believe more in that than a person or an identity. It’s a fairy tale.
It’s interesting that in history the Christian religion, which was bought into England in the third century, the Christians built their churches on the site of the old Pagan areas of worship – is that part of the story you want to tell?
Yes, completely! In the song ‘Dark light’, it completely talks about that. The snake… it’s the same. Christianity and the Abrahamic religions. You can’t blame everything on Christianity because everything derives from Abraham and the Abrahamic teachings and it’s really all about control anyway.
It was like a business and, of course, when the Romans adapted to Christianity it was because they knew it would be the next fashionable thing. Constantine, he said had a vision in the sky before the battle and he converted to Christianity… come on man! You don’t… who’s going to swallow that shit?
So, yeah, he then claimed he saw a big cross, which is a lie because at that time the symbol of Christianity was a fish. It was never a cross. The Cross symbol appeared in Medieval times, so there are many contradictions and the reality of religion is that you can lie to everybody.
It was good at the time, I think, but now we’ve got people discovering planets and possibly even life… the days of the church having all the power and great men like Giordano Bruno being burned at the stake for daring to say that the earth wasn’t at the centre of the universe… All that knowledge and he was physically burned for that… those days are ending.
So, to go back to your point, yes, they built on top of the sites to eradicate the old religion. Even the festive seasons… Easter is the beginning… it was the feast of love but they ended up saying that Christ was crucified then. There is no historical record of that, it was a decision to take all the things that were pagan and convert them to Christianity, rather than have an opposite… and within a hundred years people forgot, but they were celebrating the same festivals that they had for years and years. You know the character Mithras?
I’m afraid not
Mithras is a very curious character, 3000 years before Christ, the Roman Legionnaires adopted this God. The God Mithras was a god that was… crucified in a tree and he rose after he died, he rose from the dead three days later. Before that his father was a carpenter. This is three thousand years before Christ, I mean what a fucking coincidence! It’s plain clear that stories repeat themselves. From Babylon… the stories all repeat themselves with different circumstances but the same message.
Metal has always had a strong element of fantasy, but often more fantastic is real history. So how important is it to you to maintain accuracy in your lyrics without being too dogmatic?
Like I say, I’m not trying to preach anything, I just like stories and the first album is more thoughts than facts. But the second album which we’ve started there are more songs based on historical characters. So, it’s a difference… I’m trying to change my style of writing lyrics in that way. But even on the first album we talked about witches – the big witch hunts across Europe and the idea that Women were second class citizens and everything about that was to demean women. Paganism was considered… even medicine was considered… anything the church didn’t uphold – it was the Devil’s work.
So, I like to put these things in stories and explain how life was and, in a way, still is. Many countries still have those superstitions and there are major religions that demean women. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want people hurling shoes and following me in the street – you must be very careful what you say, but the reality is religion is still about control.
In Paganism women were equal to men. Women were sacred. You can see it in Vikings too with their queens and shield maidens. They considered women equally. On the flip side, Christians didn’t. Women were to bear children and have no opinion whatsoever in anything. Later, in England, you’ve got the queen Matilda and the civil war with Stephen (around the eleven hundreds) so after that you start getting Women recognised but until Elizabeth I there were no women with power in England.
In England, we saw religion used as control and, in the eleventh century, that was when the Vikings were finally pushed out, so that idea that you keep coming back to is that religion is a social construct used as a form of control – and that idea fits perfectly with metal and its ideas of equality and egalitarianism…
Absolutely and ever since I was a kid one of my favourite bands ever was Mercyful Fate – King Diamond – and the way he writes. The guy’s quite clever and all the stories – it’s conceptual but there’s a message too. If you read it and hear the early merciful Fate albums, you’ll hear little stories in the songs.
So, you’re in the studio now?
Yeah, we are, we’re recording with Andy… sorry, Doctor Pain and we did all the drums in November (2016) and now we’re tracking all the vocals and bass… we’re taking our time. We’re not rushing things. We’re working nearly every day, but we’re really making a big job of this.
Is this something you’re doing yourself because last time you worked with Will Maya but you did the production yourself – is this the same?
It’s the same. Will Maya, I’ve known him since the Breed days, he’s worked with the Answer, he’s very respected, I’ve known him for ten years or more and I work very well with him so I worked on the production and he mixed it with us and this time it’s the same. We did the drums with him and now, in England, we’re doing the guitars and vocals and then we’ll probably go back to Madrid – he’s got a studio there as well – and just finish all the glossy bits, get some keyboards and then Master and Mix over there. I think the formula worked for us. We’re happy with it, so we’re doing the same.
Where you have a band like the Heretic Order where it’s theatrical, is it important for you to work on sequencing the record so it tells the story as you’d like it to?
Completely. We are introducing new songs that we haven’t recorded and we’re trying to fit all the little bits. Sometimes it’s more about the message, sometimes it’s more about the music – the way the heavier songs come at the beginning – you have to plan it like a roller coaster. You have to go in hard, like in a battle, then temper it and pace it until the end.
With regard to theatre, live we have a couple of girls who dance with the band at some gigs… not all the time because… we can’t pay them! But we tried to put as much theatre into the whole thing as we can – so there’s something that people can listen to, the lyrics are important and then people can see the band and hopefully it’s exciting -it’s the whole package
What’s next for The Heretic Order?
We’re very happy that in April we’re doing our first European tour with a band called Rimfrost form Sweden. We’re travelling across Germany, Belgium, France, Italy. We’re going to the Czech Republic, so we’re really looking forward to that. There’s also a festival in Breccia, Italy, which is headlined by Vader and Overkill. So, we’ve got that and then there are some plans for a Balkan tour in September / October. I know it’s dangerous territory but we’ve been offered Ukraine, Croatia, Serbia, Hungary, so we’re going to expand. The kind of music we do, I think, is very European and I always love travel. We need to spread the message of Evil…