Jon Krieger makes black metal. Under the pseudonym Sgah’gahsowáh (pronounced Skah-gah-sow-ah), he’s the mastermind of a one-man project called Blackbraid. However, don’t expect his music to lapse into the usual trappings of blast beats and Satanic lyrics; he’s out to subvert the genre’s every cliche.
“People are bored of a lot of the black metal tropes out there right now,” the multi-instrumentalist says. “When it comes to Scandinavian black metal, I’m the biggest fan there is. But there comes a point in my mind where the dark, mediaeval type of black metal has just been done so much. It’s impossible for bands to make an album in that genre and not sound like all the rest.”
Instead of the devil and arson, Blackbraid – which recently released its debut album, Blackbraid I – is infatuated with nature, folk music and screaming about the struggles faced by Native Americans. Their first single Barefoot Ghost Dance On Blood Soaked Soil was inspired by the myriad of atrocities that indigenous people have endured. It laments everything from the Wounded Knee Creek massacre of 1890, where the American Army slaughtered up to 300 Lakota people, to the 2016 construction of the North Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Reservation. And it rages against such oppression using a blitzkrieg of black/death metal, underpinned by the sound of rattling chains. Other songs like Sacandaga incorporate traditional flutes.
Jon was adopted by white parents shortly after his birth, but was still taught about the trials and customs of Native American people from a very young age. “I think the first time I saw Wounded Knee with my own eyes, I was about six or seven,” he remembers. “I’ve been back a few times since. A lot of people don’t know our history, but it’s always been at the forefront of my mind.”
The multi-instrumentalist enjoyed a rural childhood growing up in woodland 40 minutes outside of Albany, New York. Now, he lives upstate in the Adirondack mountains, where, he says, “there are three preserves on the northern border of my property. Together, they’re 38,000 acres.” Unsurprisingly, espousing the virtues of a rustic lifestyle is just as big a part of Blackbraid as its exploration of Native American history.
When it was released in August, Blackbraid I was an underground hit. It rocketed to the top of Bandcamp’s metal charts and received rave reviews across the board. Jon fully plans to capitalise on the hype, not only with live shows, but also a follow-up album in the near future.
“It’s always been a goal of mine to incorporate native instruments into my black metal, and on the second album you’ll see that come to fruition a bit more,” he promises. “There’s so much music out there and I want Blackbraid to stand out from all of it. Whether you like it or not, I could care less. I just want people to look at my music and lyrics and know they came from the heart.”
Blackbraid I is out now.