Album Review – Sombria / Chirographon Dei (2020)

Let your soul be embraced by the beautiful fusion of Dark and Melancholic Metal from the debut album by a promising international group that has all it takes to conquer the world of heavy music.

Formed in 2019 by singer and songwriter Dimi De San, who comes under the name ‘’Valentina Devin’’, and guitarist and composer Raven Seven, Sombria are an international Dark/Melancholic Metal project featuring members from Greece, Norway and Mexico, those being the aforementioned Dimi De San on vocals and Raven Seven on guitars and orchestrations together with session musicians Lucien Keir also on the guitar, Saber Thorn on bass and Winter Cain on drums, aiming at raising awareness through their music, lyrics and performances over many sensitive subjects like child poverty and environmental issues. Now in 2020 this recently formed unity is unleashing upon humanity their debut opus Chirographon Dei, which translates from Latin as something like “the manuscript of the gods”, containing nine original songs recorded, mixed and mastered by Raven Seven at his own studio, all embraced by a gorgeous artwork by Dimi De San, and all depicting everything Symphonic Gothic Metal stands for.

Enfolding orchestrations and piano notes permeate the air in the opening tune Voyage into Lethe, with Dimi embellishing the airwaves with her operatic vocals while Raven Seven extracts somber, minimalist sounds form his guitar in a hybrid of the early days of Nightwish and Tristania. Then leaning towards the most melancholic form of Gothic Metal the band offers our ears the sorrowful Black December, with Saber Thorn and Winter Cain bringing a welcome dosage of Doom Metal to the musicality, followed by Sarcophagus of Roses, another symphonic and epic aria by Sombria where Winter Cain showcases all his dexterity behind his drums, offering Dimi all she needs to shine once again on vocals and, therefore, resulting in the perfect depiction of modern-day Symphonic Gothic Metal. And whimsical piano notes are intertwined with the rumbling bass by Saber Thorn in the gothic extravaganza Mirror of God, where Raven Seven and Lucien Keir make a dynamic duo with their darkened riffage, with the music remaining dense and imposing until the very end.

Dimi takes the lead with her pensive, anguished vocals in the darkly beautiful Ballet of Sadness, a delicate ballad by Sombria that will conquer the hearts of even the toughest metalheads, whereas the crying sound of the violin kicks off the epic and obscure The Soul’s Manuscript, where Winter Cain keeps pounding his drums and bringing doom to us all while Dimi invades our souls with her mesmerizing voice, not to mention the excellent job done once again by the band’s guitar duo. Then like a creature from another world the band comes ripping in the symphonic and heavy-as-hell Wine of Lunacy, where Gothic, Doom and Symphonic Metal are united in the name of darkness. Needless to say, Dimi is once again stunning on vocals, and investing in an even more romantic musicality we have Penitence, with all band members providing Dimi a truly enfolding ambience perfect for her sexy vocals, while the music alternates between heavier moments and menacing passages. Lastly, Sombria’s final breath of obscurity, melancholy and melodious lines comes in the form of the multi-layered Poem from the Dark Gardens, even more epic and operatic than all previous songs, with Raven Seven and Lucien Keir slashing their axes in great fashion supported by all background orchestrations.

The magical and dark world crafted by Sombria in Chirographon Dei can be enjoyed in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, but of course in order to show Dimi, Raven Seven and their loyal henchmen all your support and admiration you should grab a copy of the album from the band’s own BandCamp page, from Apple Music or from Amazon. In addition, don’t forget to also follow Sombria on Facebook and on Instagram to keep an eye on everything surrounding such amazing multi-national band, once again demonstrating your passion for the darkest and most melancholic form of heavy music. Sombria’s hybrid of Dark and Melancholic Metal found in their debut opus will surely embrace you like the bitterly cold wind on a winter night, dragging you to their lair and keeping you in the shadows forever and ever. And I’m more than sure that’s exactly what you’re expecting from those ptalented musicians who put their hearts and souls into creating meaningful music for lovers of the dark side.

Best moments of the album: Voyage into Lethe, Sarcophagus of Roses and Wine of Lunacy.

Worst moments of the album: Black December.

Released in 2020 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Voyage into Lethe 5:47
2. Black December 6:07
3. Sarcophagus of Roses 7:07
4. Mirror of God 6:52
5. Ballet of Sadness 5:01
6. The Soul’s Manuscript 5:45
7. Wine of Lunacy 7:28
8. Penitence 7:11
9. Poem from the Dark Gardens 9:02

Band members
Valentina Devin (Dimi De San) – vocals
Raven Seven – guitars, orchestrations

Guest musicians
Lucien Keir – guitar (session)
Saber Thorn – bass (session)
Winter Cain – drums (session)

Album Review – Veil of Secrets / Dead Poetry (2020)

Emerging as a result of the contact and joint work between Asgeir Mickelson and Vibeke Stene, this newborn Norwegian Doom Metal unity is ready to darken the skies with their amazing debut effort.

Emerging as a result of the contact and joint work between Asgeir Mickelson, known for having played drums in Borknagar, Ihsahn, Vintersorg and Testament, among others, and the unparalleled Vibeke Stene, known as the singer of Tristania for ten years, in Asgeir’s project called God of Atheists, Norwegian Melodic Doom Metal entity Veil of Secrets has just released their debut opus Dead Poetry, the first official album in 13 years with Vibeke on vocals since Tristania’s Illumination. Produced by Vibeke and Asgeir themselves, mixed by Børge Finstad at Toproom Studio, mastered by Endre Kirkesola at dUb Studio, and featuring guests Sareeta (Ram-Zet, Ásmegin) on violin and Erling Malm (Endolith, Articulus) on harsh vocals, Dead Poetry is everything a fan of Gothic and Doom Metal wants, and a fantastic comeback by Vibeke to the world of heavy music. “After some years with no music production or dissemination, I strongly felt an inner longing to create and feel alive through music. So I started to seek a resolution,” said Vikeke. “I’ve taken the chance to believe that my words, my thoughts, and dreams, could have any value combined with my inner tones. The composing process of ‘Dead Poetry’, was deeply founded on honesty and trust, and therefore I’m very proud to finally share Veil of Secrets.”

Vibeke and Asgeir bring the doom to our hearts form the very first second in The Last Attempt, with our beloved soprano flawlessly declaiming the song’s poetic words (“I kept my promise / The world was unaware / I sheltered in the safest place / And I would not go far away”) while Asgeir pounds his drums with anguish and sorrow and slashes his guitar in great fashion, and  more melancholy and somber passages are offered by the duo in the old school Sear the Fallen, sounding like the early days of Tristania with Asgeir’s own twist, with the grim gnarls by Erling adding an extra dosage of evil to the overall result. Then the stunning violin by Sareeta embellishes the airwaves in the menacing and dense Remorseful Heart, a lesson in Doom Metal infused with melodic and atmospheric elements, all of course spiced up by the razor-edged riffage by the skillful Asgeir and the mesmerizing vocal duet by Vibeke and Erling, whereas acoustic guitars set the tone in the Doom Metal aria The Lie of Her Prosperity, a solid and atmospheric creation by the duo where the drums by Asgeir couldn’t have been more sluggish and grim, and with Vibeke shining as usual with her enfolding vocals.

Heavier and even more doomed than its predecessors thanks to the rumbling bass and fierce beats by Asgeir, Fey is the perfect soundtrack for savoring a dark and bitterly cold night alone, with Vibeke bringing a touch of delicacy and finesse to the heaviness blasted by her bandmate; and you better get ready to be absolutely hypnotized by the crying melody of the violin by Sareeta in Bryd, a lesson in classic Doom Metal with Asgeir being ominous with his riffs and slow and steady drums. Needless to say, Vibeke is sensational with her whimsical voice once again, and the second to last fusion of old school doom with more melodic lines comes in the form of Meson, reminding me of Tristania from their album World of Glass. Furthermore, Asgeir’s piercing guitars make an interesting paradox with his damned beats, with Erling’s demonic roars enhancing the song’s punch considerably. And there’s nothing better than ending such majestic album than with a pure, unfiltered Doom Metal aria spearheaded by Vibeke’s delicate but venomous voice entitled Entirety, flowing smoothly and in the most Stygian way possible thanks to the captivating riffage by Asgeir, with Sareeta’s violin putting a gorgeous ending to the band’s musical voyage.

It’s indeed a true pleasure for any metalhead that enjoys a good amount of melancholy, darkness and sorrow in Gothic and Doom Metal to see the multi-talented Vibeke Stene back in action after so many years, and even better when the final result is an amazing album like Dead Poetry, which is by the way available for a full listen on Spotify and on sale from the band’s own BandCamp page, from the Crime Records webstore in CD and LP format, from Apple Music or from Amazon. In addition, let’s all show our support to Vibeke and Asgeir by following the project on Facebook and on Instagram, thanking Asgeir forever and ever for inspiring Vibeke to return to the metal community, and hoping that Veil of Secrets expand their reach and spread their blackened wings over the entire world with more albums and live performances in a not-so-distant future. In a year that has been nothing but chaos, obscurity and sadness, who could have imagined that one of the best news in the metal community would come in the form of doom?

Best moments of the album: The Last Attempt, Remorseful Heart and Fey.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Crime Records

Track listing
1. The Last Attempt 5:24
2. Sear the Fallen 6:50
3. Remorseful Heart 5:27
4. The Lie of Her Prosperity 6:19
5. Fey 6:32
6. Bryd 4:27
7. Meson 7:02
8. Entirety 6:21

Band members
Vibeke Stene – vocals
Asgeir Mickelson – guitars, bass, drums

Guest musicians
Sareeta – violin
Erling Malm – harsh vocals

Album Review – Enslaved / Utgard (2020)

Once again inspired by Norse mythology, one of Norway’s most prominent bands of all time returns with more of their early Black Metal roots infused with experimentations with 70’s Progressive Rock.

Since their inception in the distant year of 1991, Bergen, Norway-based Progressive Black/Viking Metal horde Enslaved has continued to push their sound into new territories and remain fresh and relevant with each one of their records, which is also the case with their brand new opus entitled Utgard, the fifteenth studio album in their undisputed career. Currently comprised of vocalist and bassist Grutle Kjellson, guitarists Arve Isdal and Ivar Bjørnson, keyboardist Håkon Vinje and drummer Iver Sandøy, the band’s music once again draws heavily on the Viking cultural and religious heritage of their home country for inspiration, with most of the band’s lyrics relating to Norse mythology. Embraced by a somber artwork by Norwegian artist Truls Espedal, Utgard is titled after a location in Norse mythology, even including some Norse lyrics and song titles, while at the same time displaying the band’s early Black Metal roots infused with their experimentations with Progressive Rock from the 70’s, resulting in a very entertaining album for both diehard fans of the band and newcomers to their Viking realm.

Ritualistic vocalizations ignite the flammable and melodic Fires In The Dark, before the acoustic guitars by Arve and Ivar take us to desolate, bitterly cold Norwegian lands in a beautiful depiction of their modern-day Progressive Black Metal. Furthermore, Grutle, Håkon and Iver have a healthy vocal duel with their respective harsh roars and serene clean vocals, increasing the song’s taste considerably. Then leaning towards their more classic Black Metal, but of course also providing their fans elements from their current musical stage, we have Jettegryta, where Iver is on fire with his blast beats and intricate fills while Grutle growls and gnarls in a dark and captivating manner; followed by Sequence, more rhythmic and less visceral than its predecessors, with Grutle’s gnarls being once again effectively supported by his bandmates’ backing vocals. However, the guitar solos seem a bit disconnected from the rest of the music, resulting in a sound that’s not as exciting as expected in the end. Fortunately, in Homebound the band gets back on track, offering our ears beautiful, poetic words vociferated rabidly by Grutle (“When gold blinds / I will see beyond the false torches / The howling will guide us / Walking the plains between worlds / When houses fall / I will be the pillar in the hail / Unmoving we travel / Crossing oceans in mythological dreams”) while the music remains imposing and vibrant from start to finish.

In Utgarđr, a cryptic, hypnotizing interlude presenting deep vocalizations, we face freezing background sounds until Enslaved come ripping once again with Urjotun, blending their raw sonority with modernized and even electronic sounds and tones from 80’s pop music. As a matter of fact, the final result is truly exciting, as if it was taken from a cult action movie from that same decade. And strident riffs and the pounding drums by Iver kick off the grim and furious Flight Of Thought And Memory, a lecture in contemporary Progressive Black and Viking Metal alternating between obscure savagery and melancholic passages, or in other words, a very detailed, multi-layered composition tailored for admirers of the genre. Back to a more straightforward musicality the quintet offers us all the melodic Storms Of Utgard, with the guitars by both Arve and Ivar permeating the air in great fashion, boosted by the song’s galloping beats and celestial keys, and they put a gentle and inspiring closure to the album with Distant Seasons, a semi-acoustic ballad where we’re treated to serene clean vocals infused with tribal and primeval nuances, featuring spot-on backing vocals by guests Inger Sunneva Peersen and Sonja Elisabeth Peerson.

We must all admit it’s a real pleasure to witness Enslaved experimenting and developing new sounds album after album, and in Utgard, which by the way is available in full on YouTube and on Spotify, let’s say they nailed it, offering us all a well-balanced mix of their more violent roots with their present progressiveness and harmony. Hence, don’t forget to give those Norwegian metallers a shout on Facebook, to follow them on Instagram, to subscribe to their YouTube channel, and to purchase Utgard from their own BandCamp page (or simply click HERE for all location where you can find the album), and may Enslaved keep on rocking like there’s no tomorrow through the realms of Viking Metal and Progressive Rock for many decades to come in their gorgeous and mythical homeland.

Best moments of the album: Jettegryta, Homebound and Flight Of Thought And Memory.

Worst moments of the album: Sequence.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Fires In The Dark 5:59
2. Jettegryta 4:56
3. Sequence 6:39
4. Homebound 5:29
5. Utgarđr 1:51
6. Urjotun 4:21
7. Flight Of Thought And Memory 6:22
8. Storms Of Utgard 4:38
9. Distant Seasons 4:31

Band members
Grutle Kjellson – vocals, bass, keyboards
Arve Isdal – lead guitars, acoustic guitars, backing vocals on “Fires In The Dark”
Ivar Bjørnson – guitars, acoustic guitars, keyboards, effects, backing vocals on “Fires In The Dark”
Håkon Vinje – keyboards, piano, clean vocals
Iver Sandøy – drums, percussion, keyboards, effects, clean vocals

Guest musicians
Martin Horntveth – percussion, glockenspiel, rototoms, tubular bells, keyboards and programming on “Sequence”
Inger Sunneva Peersen – backing vocals on “Distant Seasons”
Sonja Elisabeth Peerson – backing vocals on “Distant Seasons”

Album Review – Coldflesh / Phantasmagoric Realms EP (2020)

Enter the phantasmagoric realms of Death Metal ruled by four skillful and ruthless musicians from the underground Norwegian scene.

Forged in 2014 in the fires of Oslo, the capital of the always alluring country of Norway, when guitarist Audun Melbye brought in some songs from his former band Pieces, the up-and-coming Death Metal squad known as Coldflesh started recording their first studio album back in 2016 (when they settled on the band name, by the way), but after several vocalists and inadequate conditions to record it (resulting in tracks that were not showing the band’s full potential), the album was reduced to a four-track EP entitled Phantasmagoric Realms and postponed to a March 2020 release. However, the band now comprised of vocalist and guitarist Robin Berg Pettersen, guitarist Audun Melbye, bassist Magnus Slettebø and drummer Laszlo Juhos nailed it in their debut endeavor, delivering a high-end fusion of old school Death Metal with more contemporary Extreme Metal sounds and, therefore, pointing to a bright future for this Norwegian horde.

The opening track Deficiency already begins in full force, with Robin and Audun’s heavy riffage together with Laszlo’s pounding beats generating a reverberating atmosphere, blending classic Death Metal with the Melodic Death Metal from the Gothenburg scene, not to mention Robin’s demonic, deep growling. Then we have the title-track Phantasmagoric Realms, a solid tune full of classic beats, soulful guitar solos and endless rage that keeps inviting us all to slam into the mosh pit, with Robin and Audun, supported by the massive bass punches by Magnus, slashing our ears mercilessly; followed by Aeons Absorbed, another crushing Death Metal extravaganza led by Laszlo’s rhythmic drums and Robin’s wicked roars, sounding perfect for banging your head nonstop and reminding me of some of the creations by the mighty Unleashed (but with a darker twist). And the final act by Coldflesh comes in the form of Eradicate The Futile, a mid-tempo, hammering tune where the bass by Magnus sounds infernally heavy, with Laszlo bringing forth a warlike ambience perfect for the band’s guitar duo to kick ass with their shredding, effectively ending such short but very entertaining album of extreme music.

In summary, although Coldflesh were forced to shorten their debut installment due to unforeseen reasons, those Norwegian metallers managed to do a really good job in Phantasmagoric Realms, showcasing all their talent, dedication and passion for Death Metal in the 18 minutes of music found in the EP. Hence, go check what this new name from the underground Norwegian scene is up to on Facebook, and of course go show your true support to independent metal by purchasing your copy of Phantasmagoric Realms from the band’s own BandCamp page. As aforementioned, Coldflesh have a promising future ahead of them based on this short and sweet sample of how crushing their Death Metal can be, and it’s only a matter of time until we hear form those guys again, hopefully with an absolutely demolishing full-length spawn.

Best moments of the album: Phantasmagoric Realms.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Independent

Track listing
1. Deficiency 5:18
2. Phantasmagoric Realms 4:36
3. Aeons Absorbed 4:28
4. Eradicate The Futile 3:50

Band members
Robin Berg Pettersen – vocals, guitar
Audun Melbye – guitar
Magnus Slettebø – bass
Laszlo Juhos – drums

Album Review – Crest of Darkness / The God of Flesh (2019)

Expanding the feel, variety and depth of their music, this talented Norwegian Black Metal triumvirate returns with the heaviest, darkest and most personal album of their undisputed career.

Conceived in the mid-nineties, more specifically in 1993 in the city of Gjøvik, Norway, by vocalist and bassist Ingar Amlien (when his former band Conception was still at its peak) as a product of his own passion for sheer sonic brutality and devotion to the satanic ideology according to Anton LaVeys’ Church Of Satan and the Satanic Bible, Atmospheric Black Metal horde Crest of Darkness is moving barriers once again with their brand new opus entitled The God of Flesh, expanding the feel, variety and depth of their music, showing to be as much at home with more progressive elements as they are with the aggressive and dark, brutal side for which they are known. In other words, get ready to be dragged into pitch black darkness together with Ingar and his henchmen Rebo on the guitar and Berhard on drums, not to mention guest keyboardist Kristian Wentzel, in what’s the heaviest, darkest and most personal album of their undisputed career.

Arising from the pits of the underworld, Crest of Darkness comes crushing our souls in the opening track The God Of Flesh, where Bernhard slams his drums manically while Ingar fires his Marduk-inspired demonic gnarls in a pulverizing display of old school Norwegian Black Metal. If that wasn’t infernal enough to you, it’s time for The Child With No Head with its psychological, grim lyrics (“Forever it will stay alive / This memory has filled your mind / Forever it will drag you down / Happiness you cannot find / Selfish greed / Religious views / The smell of death / The sound of thunder / No forgiveness / No escape / You know your world is going under”) and absolute madness and evil flowing form all instruments, with Rebo sounding absurdly satanic with his riffs, followed by Endless Night, where a more serene, melancholic atmosphere evolves into a mid-tempo ode to hell, with Ingar vociferating the song’s Stygian words while blasting his bass chords at the same time, supported by the rhythmic drumming by Bernhard.

Enhancing their aggressiveness and rage with hints of classic Death Metal added to their crude sonority, the band offers our avid ears the disturbing The Spawn Of Seth, a full-bodied creation by Crest of Darkness where Rebo is on fire with his razor-edged riffs and solos, also showcasing demonic lyrics as usual (“You are walking the earth as ghosts / You are flying on the wings of death / The human race is your host / As long as it can draw its breath”). And blending obscurity, despair and sadness, the ominous and ethereal bridge Forgotten sets the tone for Euthanasia, a neck-breaking, incendiary tune led by Rebo’s hellish riffage and Ingar’s Mephistophelian roars, perfect for headbanging like a bastard in the name of darkness while Bernhard’s pounding drums bring even more violence to the overall result.

Blood, one of their most ritualistic creations, unites the sulfurous blasphemy of traditional Black Metal with the harmony and intricacy of contemporary Melodic Black Metal, sounding at times as if Danzig went full extreme, and after such fantastic exhibit of extreme music, the trio from the netherworld captivates our senses once again with more of their Stygian sounds in Godless Evil Eyes, again presenting cutting riffs and classic beats, spearheaded by Ingar and his harsh, crude vocals. And last but not least, Salvation In Hell brings forward total devastation in the form of Black Metal to close the album on a high note, with all band members demolishing their instruments mercilessly, in special Bernhard with his complex and vibrant beats and fills.

Featuring a profane, cult-like artwork by Norwegian artist Marius Engli Andersson, and available for a full listen on Spotify, The God of Flesh is another solid and electrifying pillar in the satanic church of Black Metal built by Ingar and his horde, pointing to a bright (or maybe I should say completely dark) future for such amazing traditional act hailing from the beautiful Norway. Hence, don’t forget to follow them on Facebook, to purchase The God of Flesh from their own BandCamp page (or click HERE for all options available in the market), and also to watch Ingar himself commenting about each and every track from the album on YouTube in three special videos (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). In a nutshell, darkness is upon us thanks to this bloodthirsty, talented Norwegian triumvirate, proving once and for all evil always results in first-class extreme music.

Best moments of the album: The Child With No Head, The Spawn Of Seth and Blood.

Worst moments of the album: Endless Night.

Released in 2019 My Kingdom Music

Track listing
1. The God Of Flesh 4:08
2. The Child With No Head 3:45
3. Endless Night 5:40
4. The Spawn Of Seth 5:06
5. Forgotten 2:24
6. Euthanasia 5:40
7. Blood 4:13
8. Godless Evil Eyes 3:47
9. Salvation In Hell 4:24

Band members
Ingar Amlien – vocals, bass
Rebo – lead and rhythm guitar
Bernhard – drums

Guest musician
Kristian Wentzel – keyboards

Movie Review – Lords Of Chaos (2018)

Witness the birth of True Norwegian Black Metal and its most notorious practitioners in the vision of award-winning director Jonas Åkerlund, despite the annoying fact the entire movie is spoken in English.

“A teenager’s quest to launch Norwegian Black Metal in Oslo in the early 1990s results in a very violent outcome.”

That’s how the producers of the good movie Lords Of Chaos, which was screened at several film festivals in 2018 and released in theaters on February 8 and on demand on February 22 this year, are promoting their version of the birth of True Norwegian Black Metal and its most notorious practitioners, those being Kristian ‘Varg’ Vikernes (also known for his revolutionary one-man project Burzum), Pelle ‘Dead’ Ohlin and, above all, Øystein ‘Euronymous’ Aarseth, the founder of and central figure in the early Norwegian Black Metal scene, the co-founder of the Norwegian Black Metal band Mayhem, and the founder and owner of the Extreme Metal record label Deathlike Silence Productions and record shop Helvete. All of them were members of one of the most infamous bands of all time, Mayhem, being part of a militant cult-like group known as the “Black Metal Inner Circle”.

If you’re a longtime fan of True Norwegian Black Metal, there’s nothing new to you in the movie that you don’t already know, but it’s still interesting to see how director Jonas Åkerlund, a Swedish director and drummer known for music videos like Madonna’s Ray of Light, Rammstein’s Pussy and The Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up, and a member of Swedish Black Metal institution Bathory from 1983 to 1984, portrayed all the trademark chaos, rebelliousness and violence of the Norwegian scene in the 90’s. Featuring Rory Culkin (yes, he’s the younger brother of Macaulay Culkin) as Euronymous, who did a great job trying to humanize such distinct character of the Black Metal universe, Emory Cohen as the untamable Varg, Jack Kilmer as the disturbed Dead, Sky Ferreira as Euronymous’ girlfriend Ann-Marit, and Valter Skarsgård as Emperor’s drummer and convicted murderer Bård Guldvik ‘Faust’ Eithun, as well as Anthony De La Torre as Jan Axel ‘Hellhammer’ Blomberg and James Edwyn as Kjetil ‘Manheim’ (considered by many the true founders of Mayhem in 1984, when the band was still named Musta), Lords Of Chaos is far from being a masterpiece, but it’s still a very entertaining movie that provides (to a certain point, of course) a very good view of how Black Metal changed the lives of those reckless kids that had a fairly decent life in Norway.

Despite the real Varg being completely against Lords Of Chaos, even stating in a 2016 video that Mayhem, Burzum and Darkthrone all denied the movie rights to their music, the movie is indeed a compelling ride that transforms Mayhem’s iconic guitarist Euronymous into a normal person like any of us, focusing on his fears and personal strugles as a young guy living in Norway, having won the jury prize best film award at the Molins de Rei Horror Film Festival in 2018 and being nominated to several other awards worldwide. However, if there’s one thing that really bothered me throughout the entire movie was the fact that all actors in the film speak in English (and with their American accents) all the time, despite the movie being entirely shot is Oslo, the capital of the beautiful Norway. In my opinion, they could have selected a few good Norwegian actors and done the whole movie in Norwegian to give it a much more realistic vibe, as it was sometimes pretty inconsistent and cringeworthy (at least for me) watching people in Norway, with the TV, newspapers and everything else in Norwegian, speaking like if they were all born and raised in Los Angeles or New York. That small but important detail doesn’t necessarily ruin the movie, but whenever you watch it I’m sure you’ll also have that feel that you’re watching a “Black Metal edition” of Beverly Hills, 90210 being aired on a Tuesday at 3pm on a random public access TV channel. I understand the use of English was somewhat essential for reaching a broader audience and having better support to promote the movie, but I still think the Norwegian language would have made the entire movie a thousand times more entertaining.

Apart from that language issue, Lords Of Chaos is extremely well produced, presenting a fantastic photography, including some stunning scenes from Norway’s unique nature and landscapes and, of course, strong colors and imagery to represent the main characters’ depression, madness and fears, and the story flows smoothly with very few plot holes (and historical inaccuracies) until the end. Furthermore, it’s nice to see how human all those musicians were, despite the fact many of their fans like to idolize them (as we pretty much do with any member of our favorite bands no matter which type of music they play). For instance, in one of the first scenes of the movie, we can see Euronymous, Dead and the others partying outdoors like any regular teenager, listening to some ass-kicking, old school metal hymns, having a lot of beer and trying to impress the girls around them. No murder, no arson, nor anything like that, only kids enjoying life and trying to find their place in society. As simple as that, just like many, many Black Metal bands reviewed here at The Headbanging Moose who focus on their music rather than on violent or illegal activities.

In addition, although Jonas Åkerlund stated in a 2018 interview that he used little Black Metal in the movie in part because “it’s kind of painful to listen to black metal music if you’re not used to it or don’t love it,” there’s still a lot of good Black Metal and other types of extreme and not-so-extreme music played throughout the entire movie. While watching it, get ready to bang your head and raise your horns to classics such as Funeral Fog by Mayhem, Inri and Satanic Lust by Sarcofago, Fast as a Shark by Accept, Stand up and Shout by Dio, Born for Burning, Sacrifice and The Return of Darkness and Evil by Bathory, Outbreak of Evil by Sodom, Serpent Eye by Cathedral, and Exhume To Consume by Carcass, among several others. Not only that, there are obviously some very entertaining scenes where both Mayhem and Burzum are either rehearsing, recording in the studio or playing live, which by the way is one of my favorite musical moments of the movie, with Mayhem’s chaotic sound mixed with the bloody and demented performance by their frontman Dead being the undisputed depiction of True Norwegian Black Metal.

Anyway, the main topic presented during the whole movie is obviously the extremely delicate relationships between Euronymous and Dead during what can be considered the first phase of Mayhem (until the always perturbed Dead loses it and commits suicide by blowing his brains out with a shotgun, with Euronymous taking a picture of his deceased friend and turning it into the disturbing cover art of their 1995 bootleg live album Dawn of the Black Hearts), and especially between Euronymous and the one who would become his arch nemesis in the end, the beyond controversial Varg. I mean, Dead was absolutely nuts from the very beginning, and apparently he’s always been like that due to a very tough childhood where he was bullied and beaten all the time at school, and Euronymous was just a regular musician until turning into a Black Metal beast with excellent sales, marketing and promotion skills, but the transformation of Varg from a chubby guy who liked Scorpions into a total lunatc who would reach the point of burning churches in the name of Black Metal is simply fantastic. For instance, pay good attention to the whole scene where Varg invites the press to his “lair” and tells them his name is “Count Grishnackh”, among other ridiculous comments and statements he makes. That’s hilarious and could have easily been included in any American teen movie.

And Jonas Åkerlund keeps humanizing all characters the entire movie, showing how Euronymous got some money from his father to open Helvete and start his record label, how Varg got money from his mother to help record a Mayhem album (and kept asking Euronymous for that money to pay his mom back), and how Faust couldn’t stop watching horror movies, which was one of the reasons why he got so interested in killing someone, or as he said, in piercing a knife through someone’s body like in the movies. And unless you come from a different dimension and knows absolutely nothing about True Norwegian Black Metal, you’ll be relatively shocked with how things turn at the end of the movie when Varg, feeling betrayed by his former friend Euronymous, who according to Varg himself turned his back not only to him but to the “Black Metal Inner Circle” and to the entire scene to focus on his musical career and on his girlfriend, decides to put an end to their relationship for good (or I should say not good at all). Let’s say Euronymous was what Dani Filth, from Cradle Of Filth, and Nergal, from Behemoth, are nowadays, an excellent performer and musician with a normal life backstage, which somehow sparks a lot of rage from the ones who consider themselves “true Black Metal fans”, got it?

There are many interviews and videos online where Jonas Åkerlund, Rory Culkin and Emory Cohen discuss Lords Of Chaos, like this one with BUILD Series NYC, and you can also find more information about the movie directly from their Facebook page, Twitter and Intagram. However, I highly recommend you avoid all that before watching Lords Of Chaos (don’t even watch the trailer below), as a few of those interviews and videos might “ruin” some important parts of the movie for you. Put differently, turn off the lights and light up some candles, turn off your smart phone, put on your most diabolical metal shirt, grab a beer or some red wine, and dive deep into the beautiful but somber Norway together with Euronymous, Dead and Varg, and become a “lord of chaos” yourself. You’re going to love this movie or completely hate it, but at least give it a try and then see what you think about it.

Best moments of the movie: Every scene where Euronymous interacts with either Dead or Varg is excellent. Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen and Jack Kilmer do a pretty solid job playing those three iconic characters.

Worst moments of the movie: As aforementioned, the fact that all dialogues are spoken in English and not in Norwegian, despite the entire movie being set in the beautiful Norway and based on Norwegian characters.

Released in 2018 Gunpowder & Sky/Arrow Films

Directed by Jonas Åkerlund

Cast
Rory Culkin – Øystein ‘Euronymous’ Aarseth
Emory Cohen – Kristian ‘Varg’ Vikernes
Jack Kilmer – Pelle ‘Dead’ Ohlin
Sky Ferreira – Ann-Marit
Valter Skarsgård – Bård Guldvik ‘Faust’ Eithun
Anthony De La Torre – Jan Axel ‘Hellhammer’ Blomberg
Jonathan Barnwell – Jørn ‘Necrobutcher’ Stubberud
Full cast & crew

Album Review – Dødsfall / Døden Skal Ikke Vente (2019)

An unstoppable Black Metal force from Norway returns with their long-awaited fifth album, containing 10 new unrelenting tracks of pure hate and anger.

After four years of silence, the unstoppable Norwegian Black Metal force known as Dødsfall returns with their long-awaited fifth album, entitled Døden Skal Ikke Vente, or “death shall not wait” from Norwegian, containing 10 new tracks of pure hate and anger in its best form. And their new album is the result of a huge wave of inspiration that grew up like a snowball after the release of Kaosmakt, in early 2015, resulting in a fresh and creative album holding on to their roots and the sound that was established from the very beginning on the band’s career. It can be described as a successful combination of past and present with new elements and different sources of inspiration, sounding epic, majestic and furious with a medieval touch inspired from the cold lands of the north.

Formed in 2009 in Bergen, Norway, but currently located between Gothenburg, Sweden and Oslo, Norway, Dødsfall is the brainchild of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ishtar, who together with newcomer Telal on drums (who has been playing with acts like Troll, Isvind, and Endezzma, to name a few) created a sulfurous and dark beast in the form of their new album Døden Skal Ikke Vente. Featuring a crushing, ominous album artwork by underground artist Pazuzuh, who previously worked with the band on the artwork of their album Djevelens Evangelie, from 2013, Døden Skal Ikke Vente will take you on a journey through vast, bitterly cold Norwegian lands, proving once again why Norway is and will always be the birthplace and home of true Black Metal.

Ishatr and Telal begin disturbing all peace and order with their ruthless blend of old school and contemporary Black Metal in Hemlig Vrede (or “secret wrath” in English), sounding very melodic and aggressive form the very first second and with Ishtar’s demonic gnarls being flawlessly complemented by Telal’s brutish blast beats. Their furious and thunderous Black Metal keeps hammering our heads in Tåkefjell (“fog mountain”), another piercing composition where the guitars by Ishtar sound as metallic as they can be, also presenting lots of breaks and variations, and consequently feeling like three or four songs in one; followed by the obscure and melancholic Svarta Drömmar (“black dreams”), where their Black Metal is darkly infused with Atmospheric Black Metal elements, with its rhythm being dictated by Telal’s precise drums and with highlights to Ishtar’s anguished growls.

Putting the pedal to the metal this infernal duo delivers a vicious onrush of violent and raw sounds entitled Grå Himlar (“gray skies”), with the riffs and solos by Ishtar cutting our skin mercilessly, and therefore setting the bar high for the rest of the album. Well, the duo doesn’t disappoint at all in the following track, Kampsalmer (“battle hymns”), a headbanging, marching chant showcasing bestial riffs and demonic roars all enfolded by a truly menacing ambience, and the music remains vile and sulfurous until its epic ending. Then led by the pounding drums by Telal and displaying an inspired Ishatr on the guitar we have the full-bodied, intricate tune entitled I de Dødens Øyne  (“in the eyes of death”), a song tailored for admirers of classic Black Metal who also love to raise their horns and slam into the pit in the name of extreme music.

Continuing with their feast of incendiary and dark sounds they offer us all Ødemarkens Mørkedal (“the dark valley of the wilderness”), an ode to Scandinavian Black Metal where Ishtar growls and roars in a bestial way while Telal keeps crushing his drums nonstop, whereas the heavy-as-hell guitar lines by Ishtar ignite the flammable För Alltid I Min Sjæl (“forever in my soul”), a mid-tempo Black Metal extravaganza where Ishtar and Telal are on fire from start to finish, sounding as infernal and sharp as possible. The last song of the album, named Ondskapelse (“evil hands”), brings more of their hellish Scandinavian Black Metal infused with Melodic Black Metal nuances, with Telal smashing his drums just the way we love it in Extreme Metal, flowing like rapid fire until the instrumental outro Skogstrollet (“forest troll”) captivates our senses with the howling sound of the cold wind, ending the album on an ethereal note.

You can better explore the chilly and vile realm of Norwegian Black Metal crafted by Dødsfall by following them on Facebook, and show your support to such talented duo by purchasing Døden Skal Ikke Vente (available for a full listen on YouTube, by the way) from their own BandCamp page, as well as from the Osmose Productions’ BandCamp or webstore, and from Record Shop X. Let all the frost, hatred and evil flowing from the music found in Døden Skal Ikke Vente embrace you, leading you on a fantastic and somber one-way journey into the absolute darkness and void we learned to love in Norwegian Black Metal.

Best moments of the album: Tåkefjell, Grå Himlar and I de Dødens Øyne.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Osmose Productions

Track listing
1. Hemlig Vrede 4:30
2. Tåkefjell 4:54
3. Svarta Drömmar 5:29
4. Grå Himlar 4:29
5. Kampsalmer 4:50
6. I de Dødens Øyne 5:37
7. Ødemarkens Mørkedal 5:25
8. För Alltid I Min Sjæl 4:32
9. Ondskapelse 5:04
10. Skogstrollet (Instrumental) 1:04

Band members
Ishtar – vocals, guitars, bass
Telal – drums

Album Review – Immortal / Northern Chaos Gods (2018)

The Gates of Blashyrkh have finally opened again to the sound of the pulverizing new album by the Northern Chaos Gods of Black Metal.

The Gates of Blashyrkh have finally opened again now in 2018 thanks to Bergen’s own Black Metal institution Immortal, who after nine long and excruciating years of the release of their 2009 album All Shall Fall are back in action with a brand new opus titled Northern Chaos Gods, a beyond fantastic comeback for one of the trailblazers of Norwegian Black Metal. The first album after the departure of founder, frontman and guitarist Abbath from the band in 2015, Northern Chaos Gods marks the longest gap between two studio albums by Immortal, but the wait was definitely worth it as Immortal sound extremely sharp and vile throughout the entire album, proving once again why they’re still an unstoppable force of frost and ice.

Featuring a dark and straightforward cover art by Norwegian artist Jannicke Wiese-Hansen, Northern Chaos Gods showcases an inspired Demonaz (Harald Nævdal) on vocals and guitar (for the first time since 1997) and a brutal and extremely precise Horgh (Reidar Horghagen) on drums, accompanied by guest bassist Peter Tägtgren. In an interview before the album’s release, Demonaz said he wanted to make the album as “grim, dark and cold as possible”, and Immortal more than succeeded in their quest for extreme music, delivering a raw piece of Norwegian Black Metal that takes the band right back to its early sound. Each and every song in Northern Chaos Gods is a lecture in darkness, pointing to a bright (or I should say obscure) future ahead of a band that might have suffered a few losses since their inception in the far, far away year of 1991, but that stands triumphant and loyal to their roots no matter what.

The title-track Northern Chaos Gods comes crushing mercilessly in an absolute sonic devastation blasted by Demonaz with his fulminating riffs and Horgh with his classic Black Metal blast beats, resulting in a truly old school tune but without sounding obsolete or cheesy, not to mention the excellent job done by Demonaz with his infernal roars. As violent and somber as its predecessor, Into Battle Ride is an ode to Black Metal with highlights to the lancinating guitar lines by Demonaz and the thunderous bass lines by Peter, also bringing inspiring lyrics vociferated by Demonaz (“The sword of thunder and lightning is on the rise / From the north the gods of wrath descend / The storm of war nearing, black in its sign / Now vengeance shall enter again, feared by mortals / Our yearning steel strong hands / Thundering hooves strike above dying men / Down the black valleys arise through the haze / From the mountains, hear battle and death”); whereas Gates to Blashyrkh is a lot more melodic and rhythmic, perfect for banging your head and raising your horns to the hellish duo Demonaz and Horgh. Put differently, simply ride together with Immortal to the Gates to Blashyrkh and enjoy a huge dosage of top-of-the-line Melodic Black Metal invading your senses. And Grim and Dark is another cadaveric and sinister creation by this Norwegian entity, led by the slashing riffs by Demonaz while Horgh keeps crushing his drums nonstop, flowing majestically until its crisp and ominous ending.

There’s no time to breathe with more traditional Black Metal in Called to Ice, with Demonaz’s visceral riffage being effectively accompanied by the galloping sound of drums and bass in five minutes of classic Norwegian Black Metal for diehard lovers of the genre, before a smooth and melancholic intro quickly explodes into a lecture in modern-day Black Metal in Where Mountains Rise, a headbanging tune where Horgh’s beats sound amazingly crisp and heavy while Demonaz keeps slashing his strings with sheer precision and vocalizing the song’s beautiful, poetic words (“For the mighty mountains I ride / Through the woods beyond the snow / Like a fire among the stars, beyond the clouds she rise / There’s no fire from the sun, in this dark under the moon / My blackened sight beholds the stars, and fallen suns below”). Back to a more extreme and piercing sonority we have Blacker of Worlds, where Horgh presents his violent bulldozer mode and with Demonaz and Peter delivering a storm of blackened sounds through their stringed weapons, hammering our heads until Mighty Ravendark strikes our minds like a thunderbolt, exhaling malignancy, darkness and evil. Moreover, Horgh and Peter generate a massive wall of sounds with their drums and bass, respectively, while the hell raiser Demonaz keeps growling and gnarling in a devilish manner during the song’s over nine minutes of Epic Black Metal, putting a majestic ending to one of the best comebacks in the history of metal.

In summary, Northern Chaos Gods, available in different formats from the Nuclear Blast website, is more than just a comeback as already mentioned, but the rebirth of one of the biggest exponents of classic Black Metal even when no one else believed the band could get back on track after such turbulent period in their career. Well, they’re not called Immortal in vain, and after such pulverizing album we can rest assured Demonaz and Horgh will keep the flame of Norwegian Black Metal burning bright wherever they go. Because in the end we’re talking about the true “Northern Chaos Gods of Black Metal”, and they’ll keep riding into the battlefield side by side with us, fans of extreme music, until their final and bitterly cold breath.

Best moments of the album: Northern Chaos Gods, Where Mountains Rise and Mighty Ravendark.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Nuclear Blast

Track listing    
1. Northern Chaos Gods 4:25
2. Into Battle Ride 3:50
3. Gates to Blashyrkh 4:38
4. Grim and Dark 5:27
5. Called to Ice 5:06
6. Where Mountains Rise 5:51
7. Blacker of Worlds 3:43
8. Mighty Ravendark 9:14

Band members
Demonaz – vocals, guitars
Horgh – drums

Guest musician
Peter Tägtgren – bass (session)

Album Review – Dimmu Borgir / Eonian (2018)

Uninspired, lame, generic, way too orchestral and utterly boring. What happened to our good old Dimmu Borgir?

I honestly don’t know how to start this review for Eonian, the brand new and extremely boring album by Norwegian Symphonic Black Metal icons Dimmu Borgir, the tenth in their career following their 2010 album Abrahadabra, which was also quite bad. Well, first and foremost, I don’t think the low quality of the album is due to the several lineup changes the band suffered through the years, with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Shagrath and guitarist and bassist Silenoz being the only original members left, and with guitarist and bassist Galder being already a longstanding member. In my humble opinion, their biggest mistake in Eonian was trying to be way more symphonic than they should, resulting in a bland and confused version of the music by Nightwish or Epica with extremely uninspired harsh vocals and generic lyrics.

Featuring an interesting artwork by Polish artist Zbigniew M. Bielak (Deicide, Ghost, immolation, Paradise Lost), much better than some of their previous installments by the way, Eonian has everything we don’t want to listen to in a Dimmu Borgir album, from totally out-of-place orchestrations to a lame background choir. I don’t know how keyboardist Gerlioz and drummer Daray survived another round of pedestrian metal music with Dimmu Borgir after Abrahadabra, and I hope for the sake of their careers they do not accept to participate in another explosion of sheer mediocrity with Shagrath and his horde in the near future. Should the band call it quits after Eonian, or will they keep recording tedious album after tedious album while at the same time they cash in some decent money from their live concerts and merch? In the end, it seems that’s what several renowned bands only care about, right?

An orchestral and imposing start evolves to a heavier version of the Symphonic Metal played by Nightwish with Black Metal vocals in the opening track The Unveiling (and that will happen with pretty much every song of the album), not even close to their classic sonority, getting utterly tiresome after a while despite its not-so-bad lyrics (“Become through earned / And granted liberation / Rise above the secrecy / And silent deception / Clarity is determined / At the depths of murky waters / The potion of black earthed blood / Is the sludge draining the conscious”). Then yet again we have another tasteless tune that seems taken from the worst of all Epica albums, the first (and boring) single titled Interdimensional Summit, which might have worked for other Symphonic Metal bands, but definitely not for Dimmu Borgir. Moreover, as already mentioned the album’s background choir doesn’t bring any potency to the music, not to mention how low the guitars by both Galder and Silenoz sound compared to the orchestrations. In the good Ætheric, the drums by Daray finally appear amidst the excessive orchestral sounds, as well as the riffs by the guitar duo, in what’s probably the best song of the album (with even Shagrath sounding more devilish on vocals). Put differently, this might be far from being a masterpiece by Dimmu Borgir, but at least it’s Symphonic Black Metal.

In Council of Wolves and Snakes a cinematic, horror-like intro morphs into a macabre sonority, bringing a touch of Doom Metal to their dark symphony and with guests Mikkel Gaup and Martin Lopez adding a demented twist to it with their shaman vocals and voodoo beats. There’s nothing truly outstanding in this case, but it’s still a decent song, which is definitely not the case in The Empyrean Phoenix. I’m not sure what to say about this song, as it has an interesting and vibrant vibe while at the same time its instrumental pieces are again way too orchestral, lacking more aggressiveness in the end. After such unstable song we have Lightbringer, where the band shows a spark of their glorious years in a promising start that grows in intensity spearheaded by the beats by Daray, morphing into a hybrid between the band’s classic Symphonic Black Metal and the lighter Symphonic Metal that “poisons” the entire album, but fortunately in this case Shagrath and his horde sound a lot better and more cohesive.

In the horrendous I Am Sovereign, while the music itself tries to be symphonic, it feels more like a soundtrack to a very unexciting circus act, with all that’s already bad getting even worse due to its generic lyrics (“Perseverance doesn’t mean anything / Unless it’s for eternity / The real powers that will ever be / Is freedom and liberty”). Where are the guitars? What happened to Shagrath’s voice? These are just a couple of questions raised in what’s probably the worst song of all. And Archaic Correspondance doesn’t get much better than that, not knowing if it wants to be a heavy or orchestral (or even pop) song. At least Shagrath’s voice sounds slightly heavier and more demonic than in the previous tune, but the choir once again makes the whole song too soft and tiresome. In short, this is a total waste of almost five minutes of your life. Alpha Aeon Omega presents a relatively better balance between the band’s Black Metal and the infinite orchestrations in the background, with Daray’s drums sounding crisp and piercing; however, once again the guitars are almost nonexistent (which is a bummer for any fan of heavy music). And the instrumental piece Rite of Passage would have been great if the rest of the album wasn’t such a disappointment. Anyway, it’s as decent as it can be, ending the album in a somewhat whimsical way.

In my opinion, one of the biggest issues in Eonian, if not the biggest one of all for a huge part of fans of metal music, is that pretty much all songs drag for way too long. There are countless bands that can make a 15-minute song sound like if it had only a minute or two so compelling their music is, but in the case of Dimmu Borgir they managed to do the exact opposite in Eonian, with almost every song in the album being an endless torture even if they have less than five minutes in duration. Furthermore, after surviving listening to Eonian for a couple of times (trying to find something good in it), I was going to give it a 2.0, but after listening to the first single from the upcoming album by Eric Peterson’s furious and epic Symphonic Black Metal project Dragonlord, the sensational title-track Dominion, I was “forced” to lower Eonian’s rate to 1.5. I have no idea if you agree with me or not, perhaps I’m being too demanding, but if you truly think Eonian is a good Symphonic Black Metal album I highly recommend you go take a listen at Dragonlord. Then I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Eonian unfortunately sucks big time. Needless to say, I’ll never listen to it again of my own free will.

Best moments of the album: Ætheric and Lightbringer.

Worst moments of the album: The Unveiling, Interdimensional Summit, I Am Sovereign and Archaic Correspondance.

Released in 2018 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. The Unveiling 5:47
2. Interdimensional Summit 4:39
3. Ætheric 5:27
4. Council of Wolves and Snakes 5:19
5. The Empyrean Phoenix 4:44
6. Lightbringer 6:06
7. I Am Sovereign 6:48
8. Archaic Correspondance 4:55
9. Alpha Aeon Omega 5:18
10. Rite of Passage (Instrumental) 5:16

Band members
Shagrath (Stian Tomt Thoresen) – vocals, bass, keyboards, orchestral arrangements,
effects
Galder (Tom Rune Andersen) – lead guitar, bass
Silenoz (Sven Atle Kopperud) – rhythm guitar, bass
Gerlioz (Geir Bratland) – keyboards, additional orchestral arrangements
Daray (Dariusz Brzozowski) – drums

Guest musicians
Mikkel Gaup – shaman vocals on “Council of Wolves and Snakes”
Martin Lopez – voodoo percussion on “Council of Wolves and Snakes”
Schola Cantorum – choir vocals
Francesco Ferrini – orchestra
Gaute Storås – choir and orchestral arrangements

Interview – Stein Akslen (Minneriket)

Let’s talk about the darkness with the multi-talented Stein Akslen, the mastermind behind Norwegian Romantic Black Metal project Minneriket.

Stein Akslen (Minneriket)

The Headbanging Moose: Can you please start by introducing yourself to our readers? Who is Stein Akslen, and what is Minneriket? Why and when did you decide to start such distinct project, and where do you want Minneriket to be in the following years?

Stein Akslen:   Minneriket is a solo project I started a few years ago to be able to create music focusing solely on atmosphere and an internal dialogue with myself. It’s about being nostalgic but still innovative, rooted in tradition but walking new paths and carving out a whole new beast. As some might know, I started in Blodsgard long before Minneriket and I saw great success with that band where we hold our art to the highest standards truly representing the elite of the genre, but I needed another outlet – something more egocentric, minimalistic and completely without ambitions. With Blodsgard we have goals, but in Minneriket there are no goals – there are only soundscapes, audio therapy and a straight-to-the-core kind of songwriting. The only thing I know about the future for Minneriket is that it will continue to evolve, that no ground is too sacred to tread upon, and that there are no barriers for sound, message or aesthetics.

THM: As mentioned in our review to your latest album Anima Sola, Minneriket plays what can be called “Romantic Black Metal”. Can you explain us what such distinct label truly means? What’s the real definition of it? And do you enjoy having your music categorized this way?

SA:   Well I coined the term, so of course I enjoy it. The Romantic era was an artistic and intellectual movement that originated in Europe towards the end of the 18th century. The Romantic art had an emphasis on strong emotions, individualism and a glorification of the cultural past and the nature that surrounds us. This is a philosophy that resonates with what I do with Minneriket.

Romance is so much more than just the popularization of love. Romance is strong and deep emotional desires, a yearning to connect to something and to grow emotionally attached. This approach, trying to convey the deep longing for something outside of yourself, either in nature or spirit, is the essence of what I wish to achieve with Minneriket.

THM:  The title and artwork (designed by Czech artist Anna Marine) in Anima Sola (or “lonely soul” in English) are based on the catholic imagery of the lonely spirit burning in purgatory. In addition to that, you mentioned you composed Anima Sola because “we need to talk about the darkness”. Can you tell us more details about that?

SA:   “We need to talk about the darkness” become like a tag-line for this release. You know, Black Metal music has become this watered-down version of itself: people compose music in a certain way and sing about certain topics because they’re expected to – because they have this blue-print of what an album should look and sound like. It’s a very shallow understanding of art, and I oppose that with every fiber of my body. You can spew out album after album claiming you’re the Antichrist incarnate, and nobody bats an eye because that’s just “how it’s supposed to be”. I need to make something that’s real. That will speak directly to your emotions. To make you question your existence and reflect on your life and values.

I’m a melancholic person by nature, and decided to dwell in that mental basement for a lot longer than usual when crafting this album. A lot of Black Metal listeners have a very superficial understanding of the darkness they pride themselves in representing and that’s what makes this an uncomfortable album for many; it’s true, it’s real, and it’s challenging. There’s no aggression here, no hatred or other lyrical “staples” – no easy way out – it’s solitude, depression, anxiety and a yearning for something outside of your reach. We all feel this from time to time, some more than others, but I wanted to take the time to really explore this. I don’t respect either taboos nor your perfect presentation of life on social media – I want what’s real, what’s uncomfortable and the raw and untainted emotions… And that is why we need to talk about the darkness.

THM: In Anima Sola, you offer the listener the chance to enjoy your classic Black Metal in both English and Norwegian, with pretty much half of the album being in one language, half in the other.  How do you decide if a song will be sung in English or Norwegian? What’s your process to write the lyrics for a song?

SA:   Earlier I used to think that it was a conscious choice I did. That the songs in Norwegian perhaps were closer to heart, and that the ones in English were more directed outwards to an audience. But I’m not so sure anymore. I prefer Norwegian myself, but I’ve got to be pragmatic about it too – some things just sound better in English. I can’t force it into one way or another, if a translation would diminish the value of the lyrics. So I really just let the songs decide the language themselves.

I always start with the lyrics, or at least some half-finished lyrics. Maybe just a title or a few sentences. Then I build the words and the music around this idea. I’m looking for “What was the essence of this word?”, “What were I feeling when I wrote this sentence?”, then I revisit that place inside myself time after time until the lyrics are done and I can start creating an audio representation of the words, which then turns into the whole song. I go back and forth a lot of course, but that’s the main framework I work within.

Album Review – Minneriket / Anima Sola (2018)

THM:  Although Minneriket is considered a one-man band, you had the help of guest musician Fredrik Rex (Blodsgard) on guitars and bass in two songs of the album, An All Too Human Heart and Det lyset jeg ikke kan se (“the light I cannot see”). How did you invite Fredrik to be part of the album, and how was the recording process with him?

SA:   Well I’ve worked with Rex in Blodsgard for about 10 years now, so it’s only natural that if I’m looking for creative input that he’s my go-to-guy. He’s got a whole other kind of musical understanding than I have, and he’s both very creative and have good techniques. I have pretty deep trust-issues when it comes to my art, so it’s best for me to use him because we’re able to communicate well. So I just invited him over one day, played him some of music I was working on, it was mostly finished already and just needed the right kind of flavor and seasoning, so I asked him for a few lead-guitar parts and a bass-line. Very low-key and informal, just how it should be. After using about 30 minutes to tell me how weird it is that I tune my guitars a half step down, he took about 15 minutes to record the parts.

And here’s where I need to admit a mistake… He actually played on “Tro, håp og kjærlighet” and not “An All Too Human Heart”. That’s a typo in the booklet!

THM: One of my favorite songs of the album, the full-bodied aria Det lyset jeg ikke kan se, feels like a 13-minute descent into the pits of hell. How was it for you to compose such bold song? And is the final result exactly what you wanted it to be after listening to it now that the album is out?

SA:   I’m glad you like that one! It was a very challenging song to do. I needed it to be this kind of huge sonic behemoth, and it’s difficult to maintain the claustrophobic atmosphere throughout 13 whole minutes. The music had to fit the lyrics, which really takes you to the dark corners of your mind. It needed to be repetitive and monotonous, a feeling of hopelessness but still dynamic and drive the song forward, and at the same time without becoming boring or losing the listener on the way. But I think that the way the guitars blend with the different vocal techniques I used here really makes it work.

Hindsight will always be 20-20 (to do some Megadeth-paraphrasing), but looking back on it I’m really proud of that song. It has a little of everything that Minneriket is about, and it’s objectively a great piece of music too.

THM: The closing song of the album, Time for Suicide, seems to deal with a very delicate and controversial topic. The lyrics for this song are dark, pensive and somewhat disturbing, like “Headaches taunt me with flashbacks of the past / Call it fear, but I think it runs deeper / an infection that eats away at my soul / furthering my suffering and doubling my agony”. What details can you tell us about this song? What were your main goal when you wrote it?

SA:   I guess this is a song with no hidden meaning, haha! It’s a pretty obvious thing. “Time for Suicide” is just that, a song about suicidal thought patterns and self-destructive behavior that may have risen above you and become its own entity. The moment where you lose your autonomy and your control. This all goes back to what I said initially about how we need to talk about the darkness. These things build up inside of a lot of people, and it’s controversial, it’s taboo, and even hidden away in shame. That’s not healthy, not at all. We need to face it, own it, and in that way rise above it and take back control. It’s not a song that advocates suicide or self-harm, not at all, but it’s a song that let’s you know that it’s out there, that we shouldn’t hide it just because it’s uncomfortable. There’s no reason to be ashamed of who you are or what emotions you’re experiencing, and I find it very important to shine some light on these subjects. Nothing good comes from keeping quiet.

THM: Now let’s talk about the musician Stein Akslen. Who are your biggest influences in music? And what other sources do you usually go to while crafting your Black Metal music?

SA:   I always credit the ambient albums by Burzum and Mortiis/Vond with being my initial inspiration to start making music myself. This extreme minimalistic synth atmosphere was something unlike anything I’d ever heard when I first experienced it, and I instantly knew that I would be able to convey emotions in a similar manner. The “Stormblåst” album by Dimmu Borgir (the original one of course, not the re-recording) meant a lot to me with how it balances harmonies with rhythms, and “Pentagram” by Gorgoroth have some of the best rock’n’roll drums you’ll ever hear within Black Metal, that was a bold choice and really lifted that album to a new bar.

Lyric-wise I don’t look so much to other bands, as I honestly believe most of the lyrics – especially in the metal genre – is complete and utter crap. There’s a few exceptions, but they are few and far between. I rather look to older poets, like Ulven, Jonsson, Crowley, Ibsen, etc., to see how it’s possible to say a lot with few words. To really grasp just how minimalistic you can be and still present a mountain of meaning.

Stein Akslen (Minneriket) at the legendary Nidarosdomen in Trondheim, Norway

THM: Do you envision Minneriket playing live one day as a full band, with other musicians helping you take your music to the stage? Or is it always going to be a pure studio project? And do you dream of touring with any specific renowned Black Metal band in the future with any of your bands or projects (Blodsgard, V0id&Khaos, Vakslen or Minneriket)?

SA:   I’ll go live with Minneriket when I can co-headline with Burzum and have Darkthrone as supporting act.

THM:  What’s your view of the current metal scene in Norway, the birthplace of Black Metal? Is it pointing to an exciting future? What other underground acts hailing from Norway like Minneriket can you recommend to our readers?

SA:   Mostly just a bunch of self-obsessed drunken party-rockers who thinks spikes and corpse paint gives them some sort of credibility or validity. Doing their best to re-enact the music they like themselves, while completely failing to grasp or present anything of integrity or artistic value. I can’t recommend anyone in good conscience.

THM: Thank you very much for your time, and I hope to hear more from Minneriket in a not-so-distant future as your music is truly captivating. Please feel free to send your final words and considerations to our readers, and to invite everyone to join the dark world of Minneriket.

SA: Thank you. I released the last video from Anima Sola for the song “Alle hjerter banker ei” (Not all hearts beat) a few days ago for a fitting celebration of Valentines day… And after popular demand I also made Minneriket merchandise available for the first time ever, and everything can be ordered through the links on www.minneriket.com.

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