Bardo Methodology started off as a website that published various interviews detailing philosophy and the occult that were known for really diving in the heart of the matter. The printed formats contain extended versions of the interviews found online and hold no punches as a wide range of artists and writers are interviewed and encouraged to discuss their true opinions on various subjects without censorship or the routing associated with mundane questions that seem to plague metal interviews. Bardo Methodology is an insanely ambitious project that triumphantly succeeds but not without a small share of problems
Printed on Munken Pure 100g/m2 paper instead of industry standard 80g/m2. This gives the paper a very comfortable feel and distances it from the cheap sensation found in magazines. The lack of glazing prevents it from sticking on to sweaty hands and the ink will not come off. The thickness of the pages is comparable to high quality books making it perfect for extended reading sessions. The eggshell white of the pages make it easier to look at especially in highly luminous areas as it does not reflect the light. The issue is that due to the colour of the paper, none of the images are printed in colour as that would cause a stylistic clash. The printing quality is incredible as there is no sign of pixellisation due to the lack of white spots on the black and detail is retained as seen by some of the more complex illustrations and the older images that have their visible flaws intact. The cover is much thicker and possibly made from drawing paper. What is mind blowing is that since the cover is black, the images were obviously printed with a combination of white ink and other inks that one would not find a standard printer making the images really come to life. A gorgeous book to hold and to look at that sets it apart from other magasines in the style.
The header on each page consists of runes that enrich the occult experience found here and really confines the writing for readability. Different sets of runes are you used for each interview. The writing is perfectly aligned on the left with each letter starting on the same position except for when there is a change in paragraph but on the right side there are a lot of unjustified jumps which makes it harder to read. The summary is at the back of the book for some reason rather than the front which avoids convention and forcing the reader to consciously look at the back each time they want to read a specific interview. The introductions to each interviewee feature stunning feats of page layout as the words are assembled into various shapes or in the case of the Antaeus interview, printed upside down. Written in “Times New Roman” which is the standard for novels further distances this from other magazines. A lack of credits in the pictures makes it hard to find the sources for each image. The graphics frequently used here are were all conceived for the purpose of this issue and are not the simple ones found on the internet as they reflect images conjured by each interviewee. The major issues present with each interview is the lack of clarity on whether the interviewee is talking, Niklas addressing the reader or whether there are multiple people in the interview. Dashes appear when one interviewee is speaking though there is never more than one person in each interview, such a disregard for set standards can confuse the reader into believing that there are multiple people. On a more troubling note is the fact that Niklas’ thoughts appear in the same font as the individual being interviewed and are distinguished by a lack of a dash and a subtle alinea which does not strike the eye enough and regularly causes confusion.
The interviews feature a wide range of people including the very well known and controversial writer Graham Hancock, popular bands like Bölzer, Deströyer 666 and MGLA and underground heroes like Antaeus, No Fashion Records and Dr Schitz of Morbid. Each section changes is lead in tone by the each interviewee as can be seen by MkM’s recounting the brutal hardships of being in Antaeus or Okoi Jones detailing the ideology and the process that led to their album Hero or Sadistik Exekution’s fixation on death and chaos in the bluntest terms in regards to their music. The main center of focus is the occult and the relationship each individual possesses with their non conventional beliefs. Graham Hancock expresses in the most eloquent manner as his central thesis is the rejection of scientism and the reduction of all matter to tangible matter. Alexander of Phurpa details his obsession with power and the south east Asian philosophies that brought him to such beliefs. Niklas doesn’t refrain from asking the harder questions but doesn’t impose a specific direction allowing each band to completely express no matter how separated from reality they may be as seen by the mediocre Teitanblood attempting to channel the likes of Demoncy and Beherit into their music or Okoi Jones and his implementation of tonal vocals which in reality are flat and often out of key. Ignoring the quality of the artists present, each of them provides valuable insight into their world that they would not otherwise share. Little known Alvaro Lillo provides detailed insight into the world of a Chilean Hessian and the insanity of metal in such a country and great anecdotes on his journey as a musician. Criticism has been aimed at Bardo Methodology for being pretentious and attempting to over intellectualize these interviews. These claims are unfounded as there is never a moment of disconnection between the philosophical and ideological questions asked and the responses of each individual. For those that are not well versed in the practices and beliefs mentioned here, a bit of research is necessary but even without research the concepts discussed are never difficult to comprehend and always lead towards universally understood notions. Sometimes a lot of interesting ideas and anecdotes are passed over in order to attack more pressing matters as each person here has a lot to say and the whole book could have been much longer without any complaint from the reader. These include Dr Schitz using both his personal relationship with Dead and experience as a psychologist to shine light on the behaviour of the iconic frontman and Jon Nodveidt being released from jail and discovering that he has sold a hundred thousand Dissection records and then “demanding” for the rights of his music. The only real regret here is the lack of time discussed on the particularities of the music of these individuals made such as MkM not liking his vocals on the first two Antaeus albums or KK Warslut discussing his lyrics while foregoing his playing. Despite such omissions, each interview shows a depth of knowledge and more importantly references the minds and events that were formative to these individuals allowing the reader to tools necessary to delve deeper into the notions discussed.
The reasonable price and the deceptively large size of Bardo Methodology #1 in conjunction with the overall quality make this a great read. Though this will not teach anyone about occultism it remains an excellent complement to read in between other works as it bridges the small divide between music and philosophy without imposing a certain dogma. While the age of xeroxed “Zines” is over, Niklas Göransson leads the way in a new format that may lack the underground charm of yesteryears but replaces it with professionalism and passion for a craft that most metal media failed at. Bardo Methodology presents some of the best interviews in metal.