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Sfagnum is a progressive black metal band from Antwerp, Belgium. It was formed in October 1998 and split up exactly five years later, in 2003. Sfagnum recorded a demo tape (Absence of Light, 1999) and two self-released cd's: Duistere Nacht van de Ziel ('Dark Night of the Soul', 2000) and Solarchrist (2002). All of these are sold out.
Founding members were Caldron (guitar & vocals), Arragon (keyboards), Cassiël (drums), Valaraukar (bass) and Maldoror (lead guitar & vocals). They had previously been involved in Ecliptica, another Antwerp black metal band.
When Caldron and Cassiël left the Sfagnum, Valaraukar switched to drums and Azrael Gargamel d'Avalon was recruited to take over the bass. Later, drums were taken over by Anarchrist and Valaraukar switched to guitar and vocals. After Azrael left, the band performed live without a bass player. This was to be the final Sfagnum line up during the recording of Solarchrist: Maldoror and Valaraukar on guitar and vocals, Arragon on keyboard and Anarchrist on drums. The combination of two lead guitarists resulted in Sfagnum's trademark expressive solo passages. Other typical features include multi-layered harmonic structures and polyphonic vocal melodies.
Sfagnum played a large number of gigs in clubs throughout Belgium. Early appearances were in typical black metal vein, with corpse paint and spectacular outfits. Later, they opted for a more sobre look.
The band went against the grain of the die-hard black metal scene by publicly declaring their anti-right wing attitude and because of their broad musical interests, often incorporating non-metal influences in their music. For instance, the song Het Veen uses a melody adapted from Sergei Rachmaninoff's 3rd piano concerto and a chord progression from Leonard Cohen's Famous Blue Raincoat. The opening salvo of Cursed Spite, on which the rest of the song is based, is a note-by-note transcription of an old Nokia ringtone ('Persuasion') – though nobody ever noticed.
Songwriting was mostly a joint effort with Caldron, Valaraukar or Maldoror providing the basic riffs, structure and arrangements.
Sfagnum's lyrics were initially written by Caldron (most of Duistere Nacht van de Ziel), and later by Valaraukar (all of Solarchrist) and Maldoror (Het Veen). Some are in English, others in Dutch. They are often inspired by literary classics like Shakespeare's Hamlet (Cursed Spite), George Orwell's 1984 (We Are the Dead) and Belgian writer Louis Paul Boon's De Bende van Jan de Lichte (Jan de Lichte).
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