Meet Obake: the band who make music with human bones

(Image credit: Francesco Filippo)

Back in his homeland of Italy, Eraldo Bernocchi is something of a cult character. He’s famed for his visionary art project as much as his chameleon-like ability to transcend various sub-genres – from punk-rock to noise to electronica – and his current outfit Obake are almost unclassifiable extreme metal. He’s also performed in front of the Dalai Lama and recorded with instruments made from human bones on his Blackwood project. Metal Hammer spoke to one of the most fascinating musicians currently plying their trade anywhere on the planet.

What led you to recording music from human bones?

“I have a solo industrial project, Sigillum S, that has been going on since the ‘80s. We did a lot of exploration into the pre-Buddhist religion that uses human parts in rituals, very often in a very positive way, there’s nothing really dark there. It’s dark but has no black magic purpose. When it came to Obake, if you read up on the meaning it’s about things that have shape-shifting properties, I was liking some of these instruments. I was trying to figure out a way to manipulate these things; I come from the electronic scene, the noise scene, samplers… so I proposed this idea to the others. You never know how people would react to it, but they liked it. It isn’t meant to be shocking, we didn’t even put it on the notes for the record. It was just about taking something that was a long dead and making it live again. Good stuff, good energy, that was the main thing.”

Eraldo Bernocchi

Eraldo Bernocchi (Image credit: Justyna Polaczyk)

What do the instruments bring to the actual sound of the record?

“Well, these instruments were used to banish evil spirits. That was their purpose. So when you play them you can actually hear thousands of voices, it’s not the same as playing something on a keyboard. You know what I mean?”

You presumably have to treat these instruments with a huge amount of respect?

“Oh absolutely. When I started to use these instruments – that I got from people who were using them from over 30 years ago in Tibet – I was playing them live, but I realised that this isn’t very respectful, so I stopped. Now they are just for use in the studio. That’s a part of someone, and you are bringing them back to life.”

The latest Obake album Draugr is incredibly eclectic. How did the sound of the record come about?

“The guys in this band with me have done lots of different types of music, which ranges from metal to ambient to dub… to me this album is just a statement of total freedom that we have. If you listen to the three albums, you can hear that we never wanted to sound any particular way. What’s weird for me is that this album has songs – proper songs – which we never had. We didn’t write them, they just bloomed in the studio. That’s the way that they came out. Every member of this band is open to do anything.”

Do you even know where you sit in the metal scene?

“I don’t know if you can call this album ‘extreme’. I don’t know what you would call it. For me it’s an emotional thing, do people even know what it means to be heavy? I’m recording a new three-piece that is a cello player from London, Jo Quail, F.M. Einheit from Einsturzende Neubauten, and me on guitar. It’s kind of crazy, you have super emotional classical music, noise and weird baritone guitar that ranges from doom to ambient. To me this is more extreme than screaming whatever in a microphone – after a while everything is the same. This music was never meant to be like that.”

Obake’s new album Draugr is out now, via Rare Noise Records.

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Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.