Genre: black metal
Hello to Norway! Crest of Darkness was founded in mid-nineties, which means in the period of time that many of today’s fans consider to be something like “the golden age of black metal” despite the genre was on the pure edge of musical scene back then. I know that you used to play in a prog/power metal band Conception in that time – why did you decide to start a new project with a music belonging to maybe the most extreme genre in that time? It’s quite big difference between the Conception’s style and black metal…
It was great playing with Conception. We had a lot of fun, we released a few good albums, and we did also tour quite a lot in periods. You can say we had a pretty big success. Whatever, I’ve always been very much into the most extreme styles of music, I’ve always been interested in the dark sides of life. Vampirism, occultism, magic, religion… All this inspired me since I was a very young man. I think we played a lot of great music with Conception, some of the music did also have a dark spiritual side, but my darkest and most brutal ideas for making a musical concept didn’t fit in in the music of Conception. When I started up with Crest of Darkness it was strongly motivated by the idea about expressing the darkest sides of my soul through my own, very personal project. I can easily understand that some people wonder how I could change so drastically, but it wasn’t really a change for me… I just did the most natural thing in the world for me!
Black metal from early and mid-90’s is also connected with some infamous and controversial acts like burnt-down churches, murder or suicide. Have you ever faced any problems from other people because of playing the same genre? I wouldn’t wonder if the Norwegian society didn’t like all the people from black metal scene in 90’s after some of them burned down almost a 1000-years-old historical landmarks…
It’s not a big problem any longer, but if I go 10 – 15 years back in time I remember that it could be quite frustrating sometimes. Many people connected all people like me with murders and burnt-down churches. I was personally never involved in any of these acts, so it was quite annoying being reminded about this all the time.
Since you remember black metal scene from 90’s, I’d like to ask you which differences do you see between the early period of Norwegian black metal and black metal how it is nowadays. I’ve read many interviews with black metal musicians from Norway and they were asked the same question. It is quite interesting that some of them said they prefer the original form of black metal because the genre lost its aura with time, some on the other hand said they like the today’s scene more. How about you? Do you prefer the present black metal scene or do you recall 90’s as better time for black metal?
For sure some of the magic is gone! The scene isn’t the same as it was in the nineties. A lot of the music from that time was, and still is, absolutely great! We’re talking about the pioneers of black metal! It all felt so new, so dark and mysterious at that time, and everyone was taking it very seriously I remember! It was a hard competition between the bands, something that probably made the music and the performances even better… Whatever, I wouldn’t turn the clock back now. It’s a natural thing that the scene has changed, the music has changed, the people have changed, everything actually! The roots are there, but I think it’s a good thing that people are developing! I’m not sure what more to say… Quite often I’m traveling in time by listening to my favourite music from the nineties, but it’s just like a dream, dark memories from the past! But now is now! It’s a lot of dark and brutal bands performing great music also in 2013, and that’s great!
Many people see Norway as a something like “Mecca of black metal” – the reason for this is quite obvious I think. However, from your point of view of black metal musician from Norway, do you agree with that? I remember that one guy from the band Mord once said that this is a bullshit because there are no big differences between playing black metal in Norway or any other country… What do you think?
I’m really not sure what to say… Because of the past, beacause of the history of black metal I guess some people have this idea about Norway as the “Mecca of black metal”. It’s perhaps a kind of truth in it, but I must say that black metal can be made everywhere. This kind of music should come from the heart, and it doesn’t really mean anything when or where you’re making the music!
How do the Norwegian society see black metal and also other extreme/alternative genres today? It seems to me that Norwegians are way more open-minded compared to the people here in the Czech Republic for example. I know there were some avantgarde bands like Shining (I mean Shining from Norway) or The Residents performing in Norwegian TV NRK; I also remeber that Satyricon were once playing in suits at a fashion show connected with Ski Championships… I dare to say that anything like that wouldn’t be possible in the Czech Republic (and indeed I still haven’t noticed any black metal bands playing at sport championships here). It all seems like “ordinary” people in Norway take extreme and alternative genres, black metal including, just like they are, almost as a part of Norwegian culture. Would you agree or not?
I do agree. For sure! Compared to what it’s like in many other countries Norwegians seems to be very open-minded. For me it still feels like we have a long way to go here also, but I really shouldn’t complain. On the other hand, extreme metal and extreme art in general isn’t meant to be for everyone. If everyone likes it I guess you can’t call it extreme any more. I’m sure you know what I try to say…
When listening to “In the Presence of Death” album, the music doesn’t seem to be “oldschool” in the sense of “garage-sound” but I still would dare to say that it’s rather traditional which is ok of course. However, I would like to ask how do you – as a musician playing this, let’s say, more traditional black metal – like all those avantgarde and experimental black metal bands which appeared on the scene in the past years? There are people who reject this avantgarde offshoot as something what destroys the original feeling of black metal, but on the other hand many see it as a new direction of the genre. What do you think about it?
I agree in what you say… I mean, it’s a lot of tradition, it’s a lot of history in our music. I guess this has to do with the songwriting, but it’s also another important thing I’d like to mention. Our last albums are recorded very much “live in the studio”. We are not using klick-tracks, lead-tracks or anything like this to help us during the recordings. We’re recording the drums, bass and a guitar together in the studio-room, peforming like we were standing on the stage. Later on we’re of course doing quite a lot of editing in these sound-tracks, adding more guitars, vocals, and more… Whatever, these first energic, quite brutal recordings are following us during the whole recording-process, and they’re making us getting a kind of old-school feeling I guess, but in the end we’re presenting a much more modern sound, -our own special kind of sound I like to think!
Inconnection with the previous question – what music do you listen to when you have some free time? Do you prefer just metal genres or do you like also non-metal music? Also – do you listen to your own albums sometimes? Like old Crest of Darkness’ stuff and so…
I’m listening to all kinds of music if it gives me the right feeling. Of course metal music and extreme metal in particular is my biggest passion, but I’m also listening quite a lot to classical music, prog rock, pop music, electronica… I guess the list goes on forever. It’s only a few artist who have followed me through my whole life. I have to mention my big hero from my childhood, Alice Cooper. Other early bands are Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple. All these bands still means a lot to me today! Just to give you an idea about what kind of music I’m into I’ll give you a short list of some of my favourites: Wagner, Mozart, Chopin, Dead Can Dance, Depeche Mode, Fever Ray, Jethro Tull, Rush, Mayhem, Beherit, Marduk, Deicide, Morbid Angel, Emperor, Diamanda Galas, it’s so many of them!
When I mentioned the band’s old stuff in the previous question… I noticed that you made cover for Crest of Darkness’ very first EP “Quench My Thirst” and I have to say it appears to me as the best artwork from all the releases of Crest of Darkness. Did you paint it yourself? And why you haven’t made any other cover for Crest of Darkness?
I’ve made these paintings myself. Very nice that you like them – thanks! Why haven’t made any other covers?! I don’t have a good answer, but maybe I should make the next one myself, I have some ideas…
I have to confess that I haven’t heard Crest of Darkness’ old albums in a while but as far as I can remember, there were some let’s say unusual elements like female vocals (among others) on “The Ogress” album for example. “In the Presence of Death” sounds more straightforward compared to that I would say. Did you aim for more straightforward album this time?
Crest of Darkness is a very personal band for me, and I’m always trying to do what feels right for me in the moment. The main reason why I ended up with female vocals and other unusual elements as you say on “The Ogress” album has to do with the whole concept lying behind this release. This album was inspired by the true story about the Norwegian/American female mass murderer Belle Gunness. The title track is directly connected to the real happenings, and Kristin Fjellseth who did the female vocal parts on this song is here playing the role as Belle Gunness “The Ogress” herself. With this album I tried to create a special atmosphere, it’a more goth influenced album than any of the others. With our latest releases, especially the brand new album, we’ve searched for a more brutal sound. It’s still a lot of musical details in the music, but that’s lying more in the guitars and the drum arrangements.
I’d say that the most surprising song in the context of the rest of “In the Presence of Death” is “From the Dead” which is the most melodic compared to the other songs and also contains one really unexpected keyboard moment that is followed by a beautiful melodic solo. The result is that this song really stands out of the album so it just suggests itself to be asked about. Does “From the Dead” have any special position on the album from your point of view? Should we understand it as a something like experimental tendencies within “In the Presence of Death”?
We’re playing raw and brutal metal with Crest of Darkness, but I’ve always felt that it’s important to make the music as interesting as possible! I’m perhaps a litle bit old-fashioned when it comes to this, but from the first beginning when I’m starting to make songs for a new album I’m thinking in “album-format”. For me an album can be compared with a book. Listening to our albums is could be compared with being on a short journey through a dark landscape. I want people to get a touch of my darkest dreams and visions. I create music as I like to hear music myself. When I’m listening to an album I like to get small suprises when I’m listening. “From the Dead” is perhaps this kind of song?! From my side it comes very naturaly making these kind of songs, but it seems like many songwriters are afraid of mixing different styles of music in one song. I don’t know, but that’s my impression. Anyway, I love to make these kind of songs, and I guess this has becomes a kind of “trademark” for Crest of Darkness.
Why did you decide to shoot a video for “Demon Child”? It is of course a very good song but if I had to choose one “hit song” with a potential to kick the asses with a first listening, it would be “Welcome to My Funeral” which is surprisingly catchy…
You’re might right when you say that “Welcome to My Funeral” is a more catchy song, but one of the main reasons why we choosed “Demon Child” had to do with the fact that this song is presenting many of the different sides of Crest of Darkness. It goes from pure agression, blast beats, some quite melodic parts, and into a heavy metal, almost a litle bit psychedelic part. But it could perhaps been a better choose “Welcome to My Funeral”, it’s hard to say…
“In the Presence of Death” was released also as a LP version. As far as I know it should be the very first Crest of Darkness’ album released on vinyl, is that right? It also corresponds with renascence of LP format which is quite apparent in the past years. Do you like vinyls? And do you think it is possible for your old catalogue to be rerelased on LPs one day? There are many labels which concern on releasing the vinyl versions of the old albums so I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them asked also Crest of Darkness about this possibility…
It’s the very first Crest of Darkness album presented on vinyl, you’re right about that! And I love it!! For me vinyl has allways been “the real thing”! I grow up with vinyl, and it’s so great that it’s coming back more and more! I guess it’s most for the collectors, but any way I think it’s great! I’m quite sure that our albums will be presented on vinyl, at least some of them! I’ll definitely take a personal initiative to make that happen!
The line-up of Crest of Darkness seemed to be stable in the past few years but guitarist Kjell Arne Hudbreider left the band last year. I think that the reasons were described quite clearly in the statement so I would like to ask why did you accept Jan Fredrik Solheim as a new member of Crest of Darkness? If I remember well, there wasn’t anything what could be considered as a competition, it was just announced that he is the new member. Do you know him from the past?
Jan Fredrik has his own band Djevelkult, and they’re actually having a rehearsal-room right beside of the rehearsal-room of Crest of Darkness. He’s young, he has the right ambitions, he’s a good guitarplayer, and he has the right philosophy, he simply fits in perfectly in our band! You’re right, it was no competition, I just asked him because I knew him from before.
Well, we are slowly running out of the questions so let’s do the last three ones. We have already mentioned your former band Conception where you had played with Roy Khan who later joined quite well-known band Kamelot. How do you like his appearance in Kamelot? Have you heard all the albums he participated on? If so, do you like them (and which one the most)?
To be honest I think Roy is doing his best performances in Conception. I don’t know why, but he sounds more original, more unique there… He did of course also do some really great vocals in Kamelot, but I’ve never been the biggest fan of Kamelot. They always have a few songs on their albums I can like, some of them quite a lot, but it’s something with the whole concept… It’s really not my kind of music. I heard all their albums, but I don’t think I’m able to pick out a favorite. I’m might sounding a litle bit negative now, but I want you to know that I have a big respect for this band! They’ve always delivered top quality albums, great productions, perhaps too perfect for me?! I’ve seen them live a few times, and I must say they’re delivivering great shows most of the times, so I do have a lot of positive things to say, I’m just not their biggest fan.
Anyway, do you think it is possible to reunite Conception one day? One could say it would be more possible when Roy left Kamelot so he should have more time without their full touring schedule. I know that Conception played some gigs in 2005, I remember there were also some rumours about a possible reunion a few years ago but nothing happened in the end… So do you think it will be possible to see Conception playing again in the future, or is the band absolutely dead?
The band isn’t dead, and I do beleive that it’s still a chanse that we’ll play together again. I can’t say more, I have nothing concrete to come up with, but we’re still good friends, and I guess everything is possible…
And the last question… You contributed on Satyricon’s EP “Intermezzo II” in 1999 with bass guitar in two songs. Could you tell us something more about this collaboration? How did you get in touch with them, how it happened and so? Thank you very much for the interview! All the best!
Sigurd “Satyr” Wongraven just called me on the phone one day, that was the start of this collaboration. Satyricon needed a bass-player and I was asked for the job. We had a few intence rehearsels, and after some time we recorded the EP where I contributed on two songs. It was interesting for me doing this, but I must admit that all this happened in a period where playing their kind of music was pretty new for me. I was very much into dark and brutal metal, but I hadn’t played much blast beats for example, and I wasn’t really comfortable with the situation I remember. Whatever, I remember that Sigurd wanted me to continue playing with them, but without saying very much I remember that I by my own choise “drifted away” from them after a while… At that time it also started to happen quite a lot of things with Crest of Darkness, and even Satyricon couldn’t compare with my own band. Crest of Darkness has always been my main priority, no matter sales and success, and I’m glad today that I can say that Crest of Darkness is very much alive, and we’re probably sounding better than ever before!!