Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Interview: Cris/SVARTSOT

*to be published in Hails & Horns Magazine

Svartsot is a very young band. You formed in 2005 and quickly broke into the
metal scene of your native Denmark before attracting international attention
and landing a deal with Napalm Records earlier this year. It must have been
quite the wild ride! How did you end up on Napalm? What has changed for you
guys since the band's inception in 2005?

Thanks for saying that we're young! Half of the members of the band are
probably above the average age of what you would expect in a debut band. But
more seriously, Napalm Records actually found us. We were originally contacted
by one of their A&R personnel over a year ago, and were asked to send a copy of
our first demo, Svundne Tider. I don't know what happened then, as we never
heard back from that person. Then at the start of this year, shortly after we
released the second demo, Tvende Ravne, we were contacted by another of Napalm
Records' A&R people. This time it went further, and we wound up with the record

I think that we have refined the style a little since our inception. But the
ideas and general style have remained the same, although we are still
developing the whole time. Hopefully that's a process that will continue. We
may as well call it quits if we just start rehashing the whole lot.

Where did Svartsot come from? Who originally came up with the concept for the band, and how did it come into being?

Most of us in the original line-up had played in a band together just prior to
starting Svartsot. The earlier band was more black metal-based than Svartsot. I
suppose really we were just bored of playing the same old stuff. Most of us had
listened to Finntroll and bands like that, and we thought that the folk element
was really cool, and wanted to bring that into our music. I had also played
folk music for many years, so the idea of merging metal and folk suited me from
the start. About half of the original line-up came from a more death metal
orientated background, so it was an obvious choice for us to blend death metal
in to the picture. It was quite an easy process really.

What does the name Svartsot mean?

Svartsot is an old and now obsolete word in Danish which translates as "black
sickness". It's a type of jaundice that causes the patient's skin to turn black
due to the built up of the waste that the liver normally filters from the
blood. An untreated patient will die from the disease, as many did in the
medieval period.

Your debut album for Napalm Records, Ravnenes Saga, is a powerful blend of
death metal and folk music. Folk metal is all the rage nowadays, but I feel
that Svartsot stands out. Instead of being just another black/folk metal band,
you meld death metal heaviness and grooves with the traditional instruments,
which is a rather unique approach. Why did you decide to write music this way?
I never thought I'd see the day that flutes and whistles are coupled with death
grooves, but you've definitely proved me wrong!

As mentioned above, several band members come from a death metal background, so
that was the obvious choice for us. But the whistles were first brought into
the sound spectrum after the first couple gigs. Originally we were just two
guitars, bass, drums and vocals, but this was a little too death metal for what
we wanted to do. I had jammed with Stewart a few times, and he was an obvious
choice as he also comes from a folk and metal background. The mandolin was
kinda like a last minute decision on the first demo. I had one, so we decided
to throw that in too. It makes the sound a little more folky. But now it is
definitely a part of Svartsot's recorded sound.

What was the writing and recording process like for Ravnenes Saga?

Some of the songs are quite "old" and have been on the repertoire pretty much
since we started the band. Other tracks were finished specifically for the
album. We're constantly writing new material, so it was a question of what we
thought would be cool for this album and sorting that from the other material,
stuff that didn't quite live up to standard. So that wasn't so difficult. The
recording process was quite easy too. We rehearsed the material thoroughly and
demoed it in our rehearsal space before going to the studio. There it was just
a matter of recording the material. We did also write a few new details, did a
little rearranging and whatever in the studio, but that wasn't a big problem

What is the concept behind Ravnenes Saga?

There isn't really a concept at all, although most of the songs deal with
womanizing, drinking and fighting, preferably all at once (ha ha!). And that is
also the reason why we chose the album title. We wanted something that covered
many possibilities. We discussed many titles, but Ravnenes Saga was the one
that worked best, as it could be described as being about Odin's two ravens,
Hugin and Munin (thought and memory). According to the legend, these two would
fly across the world each day and report to Odin what they had seen. They would
presumably have seen many things, and that's what this album is about.

What first drew you to this style of music? How did you get into heavy metal,
and what sparked your interest in folk music?

I can only really answer for myself. I first started listening to metal when I
was a young lad in the late 80's. Back then it was stuff like old Def Leppard
and Iron Maiden and all that NWOBH stuff. I then started listening to death
metal and stuff like that in the early 90's. I started playing guitar about the
same time as I got into Maiden, and I sort of discovered folk music through
playing guitar. It was probably something like House of the Rising Sun or
something, but it led me to other stuff. It has certainly helped in the
development of Svartsot. Folk metal isn't convincing when the background in
folk and/or metal is missing from the equation.

Why do you feel that folk metal has become so popular?

I think it has a lot to do with the fact that it makes you want to get drunk
and have fun. That's possibly one of the main reasons we started doing it in
the first place, come to think of it. Folk music has always had this jolly
feeling to it, and it combines well with metal. I could start getting boring
and tell all about medieval route-fifth chords being the same as power chords,
etc., but I'll spare you. The crux of the matter is that the two styles combine
well and make you want to have fun, and that's what metal always really has
been about. The lyrics are escapist and fantastic, which is also very metal in

Who do you consider your main musical inspirations? Who would you call your

That's difficult to answer. We try not to limit ourselves with regards to
inspiration. Everyone in the band has different tastes in music, so their own
personal preferences will shine through. So far it has mainly been Michael and
I that have written the music. Michael is very much into thrash and his riffs
are very much influenced by this. As stated, I come more from death metal
roots, although I have played many different styles, including black metal. As
musicians, we are inspired by everything that we think sounds good. It doesn't
even have to be metal.

With regards to peers, I don't know. I think it would be best to leave that up \
to the listener to decide.

What is the metal scene like over in Denmark? You don't hear about too many
Danish metal bands; is Denmark a bad country for metal, or just overlooked? Are there any smaller Danish bands that you feel deserve more recognition that you'd like to mention?

Danish metal is doing quite well for itself at the moment and several Danish metal bands are currently getting international recognition. We have bands like Mnemic (who I believe are
doing well for themselves in America), Hatesphere, Illdisposed, Mercenary,
Raunchy and Iron Fire, who all have deals on international labels, besides
several other less known bands with record deals. And back in the 80's we had
Mercyful Fate and Artillery. Some of these bands may not be quite so well known
in America, but Mercyful Fate and King Diamond are internationally
renowned...And then there's Lars Ulrich, but I'll leave it there.

What sort of touring plans does Svartsot have? You're confirmed for Ragnarök
Festival 2008 which I'm sure is very exciting.

Yeah, we have a few festivals lined up over the next half year or so, and we've
got a mini-tour coming up with Týr in January. But new shows are being added
all the time. We're really looking forward to playing for new fans. We've never
played outside of Denmark, so it's going to be really cool.

Do you think you'll make it over to the United States anytime soon?

I really don't know if we'll be coming to America so soon. It often takes
European bands several albums before they go to America. But I know that our
booking agent has contacts in the US, so it's not so unlikely that it may
happen at some time.

What does the future hold for Svartsot?

Who knows? Hopefully a few more albums, some tours, a couple videos, and a lot
of beer, ha ha! I think it's too early to say anything for sure, but we are
working on new material to a possible follow up to Ravnenes Saga.

Any parting thoughts, words, or messages?

Not really. We just hope that people will enjoy the album and come to the \
shows! It'll be a blast!

Review: HORNA, Sotahuuto

*soon to be published on

Bathory was one of the first, and best, black metal bands to ever have existed. This is inarguable. Seriously, have you heard “Under the Sign of the Black Mark? That album got me into black metal (and, oddly enough, into college. You know that part of the application essay where you have the option to write about “a book, movie, or work of art that has greatly impacted your life?” Well, obviously, that album is an absolute masterpiece…I guess I somehow managed to convince the admissions people of it as well). The band that launched a thousand imitators, if not an entire genre or two (can’t forget the Viking metal years!) has been enjoying some extra attention lately, thanks in part to Black Mark’s decision to reissue twelve of Quorthon’s finest on limited edition picture discs. The tribute box sets/CDs/merchandise/cover songs keep on comin’, and I daresay it’s been a pretty good year for good ol’ Quorthon -– well, as good a year as one can have posthumously, I suppose.

On top of all that, Finnish black metal horde Horna have just released a very special Bathory tribute of their own. On their latest album, Sotahuuto, Shatraug & Co. do their damnedest to recapture the spirit of the earlier Bathory releases, down to the production values (god, I love me those buzzsaw guitars). They do a fine job of it, too. It’s nice to see a grim/raw/kvlt/whatever band like Horna not only admitting to taking vast amounts of inspiration from the First Wave, but actively giving their heroes a nod of thanks and respect. Bands who dwell on the rawer side of the black metal spectrum are often accused of sounding similar, cookie-cutter, uninspired, intentionally “shitty” – genre detractors are merciless in their derision of the style, sound, and aesthetics of low-fi black metal. While it’s grossly unfair to write off an entire (sub)genre for crimes of which nearly every style of music may be found guilty, even I have to admit that sometimes, they do have a point. Happily enough, though, Horna is a sterling example of good, original, talented-yet-still-raw-edged black metal, and showcase their formidable skills admirably in this worthy tribute to the one who first rode to Asa Bay. All the trademarks of vintage Bathory are there – slow, plodding tempos that quicken into a menacing gallop when the mood strikes; scratchy, venomous vocals; caveman drumming; no bass lines to speak of. In short, Horna achieved their goal – the closest thing you could possibly compare Sotahuuto to is, well, Bathory. They put their own stamp on the music, but ultimately, this is slavish Quorthon worship at its finest. The production is perfect for this kind of thing; rough around the edges, tempered with that oh-so-classic “buzzy” sound, but still clean enough to hear what’s going on.

If you appreciate the brutal, primitive beauty of the first three Bathory records, you will absolutely love this record. If, however, you’re looking for some uber-brutal northern hyperblasts, French-fucked insanity a la BAN or DsO, or something to throw in the CD player when that hot little number from chem lab stops by, this sure ain’t it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Two interviews I am excited for.

So I'm doing an in-person interview with ERIK RUTAN when Hate Eternal comes through Philly on January 18th. He's pretty much a death metal GOD - he played on "Domination," for fuck's sake! AND produced albums from Cannibal Corpse, Goatwhore, and Vital Remains (amongst others). He's got a rep for being really intelligent and talented, so here's hoping our chat goes well.

{Hails & Horns Magazine}

I'm also in the process of confirming an interview (probably a phoner, but possibly in-person if I feel like trekking all the way up to NYC) with JARBOE. She's a fucking LEGEND both for her work with Swans (as well as with a plethora of other artists), and for her own solo work. Her collabo with Neurosis is one of the most captivating things I've ever heard, and her work with Swans never fails to blow me away. Her voice...oh god, her voice. It's indescribable. I am SO EXCITED to have a chance to speak with this woman.

{AMP Magazine}

Other upcoming inties:
Light this City

and whatever else catches my eye.