In Vain

In Vain (2013)

In Vain - Ænigma
Country: Norway
Genre: progressive black / death metal

Questions: H., Ježura
Answers: Johnar Håland
Number of questions: 17


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Hello! If you don’t mind, I would like to start with a few questions about In Vain’s history. The band was founded in 2003 and your first demo was released one year later. I couldn’t find anywhere whether any of the founding members, including yourself, has played in any other band as of time when the band was born so I’d like to ask if you have played anywhere before In Vain. I’m asking that mainly because even your early works “Will the Sun Ever Rise?” and “Wounds” sound very sophisticated to me – so much that it might be a little bit difficult to believe they were created without any previous experiences with playing music. Could you please tell us something about your musical activities before In Vain (if there are any) and also what was the main motivation to form the band?

HI! I used to play in a metalcore band called Lodestar. That is many years ago. Currently I have a hardcore band together with our bassist Kristian. It’s called From Strength to Strength and please check us out on Facebook Our debut album is ready, but since Kristian is currently studying in the US, it is hard to stay active without his vocal duties. So the record is put on hold as of now.

Sindrehar done vocals on Myrkgrav’s debut album and he is currently active in the Doom Metal band Funeral. Our other members have had other side projects, but nothing well known.

You have re-recorded some songs from your first efforts on your later albums – both “The Latter Rain” and “Mantra” contain those older tracks (although just as a bonus in case of “Mantra”). However, there are still some songs left in your early era only. Do you think it might be ever possible “resurrect” also those someday? Or do you plan to focus on creating the new music only in the future?

I doubt we will ever re-record any more songs. To be frank, I actually prefer the original versions of all the songs we ever re-recorded. Additionally, we should also keep some songs exclusive for the early EPs.

I actually listened to “Wounds” and “The Latter Rain” recently again and compared to “Ænigma”, the metal elements sound more raw to me but still a little more avant-garde, while the new album seems more consistent and complex (yet without losing variety) to me. How do you see In Vain’s early works from the distance of a few years? Do you listen to them from time to time? I have to confess that I still love “The Latter Rain”, maybe because it was your first album I heard. Some songs like “Their Spirits Ride with the Wind” or “The Titan” are still fantastic and I enjoy them despite I’ve heard them maybe a hundred times…

The production on “The Latter Rain” is more raw, whilst the production on “Ænigma” is more crystal clear (much better imo). That element may also cause some people to find “TLR” a bit different. I agree the new album is more consistent and that is exactly what we set out to do also. When you compare to our previous albums, one can conclude that the songs are more straight-forward. However, keep in mind that the songs are still long, very varied, with several vocalists employed, many different styles utilized, and so forth. So I think it’s more a matter of “Ænigma” seeming more “easy”, simply because it’s compared to albums that are quite hard to digest.

Around every release I listen to our albums a lot and I enjoy it. As you know, I am aware of everything that is going to happen, so I never get to enjoy our music as a normal listener would. So after intense listening for some time I usually leave the albums behind. It’s been very long since I listened to “The Latter Rain” or “Mantra”.

Thanks for you complements on those songs. I am still very proud of “The Latter Rain” and I believe that album contains some of the best In Vain songs ever recorded.

In Vain

Anyway, when we mentioned what you listen to… You said in our previous interview that you aren’t a typical metalhead and that you got into metal very late. What music do you like as a listener? And what did you listen to before you started with metal? Anyway, it might be a little bit interesting that you got “very late” into metal music, as you stated, and now you are known mainly as a metal musician… how is that possible? Also, one sort of a funnier question – you also said that you didn’t have any records from bands like Iron Maiden or Metallica as of time of our first interview (January 2010) so I just wanted to ask if have some of their albums now (laughs)?

I like bands that have very good songs and some kind of original edge. They do not have to invent a new musical style (impossible..?), but have something that sets them apart from the rest. E.g. a very strong singer can be enough. I do not have time to listen to just another copycat, then I rather prefer the originals.

Before I started to listen to metal I was listening to the music that was on the charts. Then I discovered grunge, went on to hardcore, metalcore, and the first extreme metal album I bought was Zyklon“World ov Worms”. In Vain was started as a project at a school I was attending, and I simply wanted to try to write a metal song because I was listening a lot to metal during those days. As the band evolved it never made any sense to change style, but as you know we are experimenting a lot.

No, I still do not own a lot of old time classic albums. I am not that into that kind of music either, and I think many of those band also enjoy a certain nostalgia glamour.

I’ve noticed that your every album contains one song with lyrics in Norwegian language. Should we understand it as a small tribute to your roots and Norwegian musical scene or is there some other reason? Is there a possibility that you’ll release some EP or even a full-length album sung completely in Norwegian?

You can look upon it that way. Normally I write in English, but sometimes I get a title stuck in my head, which I want to keep in Norwegian. For me it’s obviously a lot easier to express myself in Norwegian than English, so that is a bonus as well. However, the majority of our lyrics will continue to be English.

Could you somehow describe us how the process of composing the music looks like? What is happening before a new In Vain’s song is born? Did you somehow change your attitude to composing for “Ænigma” compared to the previous records? As far as I know you should be the main author of the music, is that right? Do you just play and jam with a guitar until you come up with some good riffs and melodies, or do you wait until the inspiration comes and then you play only ideas you have in your head? And do you create the whole songs with only minor changes to be done later, or do you leave enough space also for the others’ ideas to be incorporated during the rehearsing or the actual recording?

So far I have written all the music and I employ the same method for composing songs as I did from the start. I have never been a good riffer, so I am not that capable of coming up with new riffs just playing on the guitar. Instead, I put the guitar down and instead concentrate my musical mind and try to make music in my mind in that very moment. This might sound weird, but that is actually how I work. So whenever I come up with something I like I write the riffs down on my computer. I have a big catalogue of riffs on my computer, all sorted in different categories depending on what kind of riff it is. Making music this kind of way is very hard in the beginning, but eventually you train your musical brain and it gets easier. For me it also gets a lot easier the more time I spend on it and the longer my mind has been in such kind of “songwriting mode”. E.g. if I spend two hours every day for several weeks I eventually get into a phase where I am able to think about music 24/7, and I can compose on my way to work, while working out, etc.

When I compose a song I make the song from A to Z. Everything is planned and I plans and specific suggestions for what each member should play. We sometimes improvise a bit in the studio, but the songs are more or less 100% done.

If I’m not mistaken, there are five singers in the band, which is quite uncommon. Was it your intention from the start to gather people able to sing besides playing an instrument or was it just a coincidence and you discovered such potential after forming the lineup?

From the start Andreas did both Black Metal vocals and growls, however now he is only doing screams and Sindreis doing the growls. We wanted somebody to sing, and that is how Sindre came along during the recording of our first EP. During the years I have added more uncommon vocals here and there, and when our bassist Kristian joined the band we started to utilize his powerful hardcore vocals. The other members are good singers and do bgv clean vocals.

Alright, let’s finally talk about your latest album “Ænigma”. The first question quite simple – what is the meaning of the album’s title? I guess “Ænigma” is a transcription of the word “enigma” which could be translated as a riddle, a mystery or even an allegory. This translation suggests quite wide range of possible interpretations so I’d like to ask if there is any connection between the title and the lyrics, the artwork or anything else. Is something particular hidden behind this title or is it a little game with the listeners and the meaning itself is a riddle?

You are correct. Ænigma is the latin spelling of enigma. There’s no fixed topic or lyrical red line on “Ænigma”. Andreas and I basically write about different subjects that are close to their heart, and that fits with the emotions of the particular songs as well. We felt that the title sort of reflected the well of thoughts presented in the lyrics, not to mention the overall atmosphere of the music.

In Vain

“Ænigma” also contains quite interesting cover art. I have to confess that I didn’t like it so much in the beginning but now I must say that it has something within despite it might seem a little bit simple at first sight. Why did you choose Robert Høyem to create it? Did you have any specific vision about how it should look like, or did you leave it up to him?

We were very prominent in our directions to the designer that we did not want a typical “photoshop cover”. We wanted something new and fresh, more creative and abstract. The designer suggested that we he would draw the cover. We thought that was a good idea and gave him keywords for what kind of emotions we would like him to portray.

Two videoclips were shot for the songs from “Mantra” and both songs were shortened for those videos. How do you, as a musician, look on shortening of your work for the sake of making a videoclip? Few songs from “Ænigma” seem to be short enough to fit in the standard clip format. If you are planning to shoot a clip for a song from “Ænigma”, will it be one of these? And doesn’t it tempt you to shoot a clip for a very long song in its full length?

I do not like shortening the songs and for every video we have done it has been a painstaking process, because we do not really have songs suitable for that format. That is also the reason I declined to do a video for “Ænigma”, in addition to save costs. It simply does not make sense to do a video, if you do not have a lot of money to spend imo. I do not think a 7-8 min video would be very easy to do either because it would require a very smart plot and a ridiculous amount of hours for the recording and editing.

Despite all differencies, your first two albums had – among other things – one thing in common: single songs more or less differed in the structure and overall feeling both throughout the album and within one song. As I already mentioned somewhere above, songs on “Ænigma” seem to be more straight-forward, more similar to each other (and with that I don’t mean that they are not enough individual because without any doubt they are), they’re shorter and the whole album feels more compact. Is there any particular reason why has it turned out this way? Was it your intention or just a natural evolution of your musical expression?

The reason is simply that that is what we sought out to achieve when we recorded the album. We have been operating in the same musical landscape the whole time, but our listeners have learned that our musical universe is vast. Consequently, the music can vary a lot. E.g., with our second album “Mantra” we dwelled deeper into the dark and progressive aura of our musical universe. Additionally, “Mantra” has more slow and heavy songs and some people find it more difficult to get into. I find “Ænigma” is a good representation of everything we have done so far. I believe it is more catchy, and although the songs are still complex I think they are more accessible. Many have labeled “Ænigma” our most consistent release so far. Many mention that the album is more compact, but it seems they forget that the songs are still long, very complex, several vocalists involved, etc.

Another topic I would like to go through is your live playing with Solefald. How did this cooperation actually start? Did the fact that Sindre Nedland is Lazare’s brother help somehow in starting the cooperation? How long do you think it will last? Do you think it might be possible not only to perform live with Lazare and Cornelius but also to do some music together (doesn’t matter if under the name of In Vain, Solefald or eventual completely new project)?

Actually, I pitched them the idea of a tour with In Vain and Solefald back in 2011. There were many economic and logistic advantages, apart from the fact of getting them back on stage. Also, with In Vain as the backing band they would play with someone they already knew and did not have to hire expensive session musicians. On the other side, I viewed this as something that could give positive synergies for In Vain. Consequently, I considered it a win-win situation. It took some time, and at one point I was about to give up the entire project until the tables turned and Solefald were convinced. On how long it will last I am not really sure, but I think it will end at some point.

About doing music together I am not really sure. I am afraid there might be too many strong individuals in the same band, hehe.

I guess there has to be a little difference between playing live with In Vain and with Solefald, at least in that you’re performing your own music with In Vain and someone else’s songs with Solefald. What differences do you see between playing with both the bands?

Without the aspect you mention I would say the Solefald songs require less technical skills, guitar playing wise. They also tune in C#, while In Vain tune in D. Other than that it’s not big differences. Still playing the same instrument :)

Recently you toured over Europe together with Solefald and Vreid. Wasn’t that difficult for you to play two full sets one after another? Do you have some special memories from this tour that you want to share with public? Or some you don’t want to share (laughs)?

I was indeed tiresome, and also I would have preferred being out in the crowd or and the merch stand after our shows, instead of going back on the stage. However, is was good fun. A special memory was when the police shut down our gig in Italy. It was a really sad happening and especially since so many people had showed up.

In Vain

I hope I remember it correctly… as far as I know you played twice in the Czech Republic so far – in Liberec and Ostrava with My Silent Wake in 2011. Do you remember anything from these shows? If so, how were they? Anyway, you’ll be returning to the Czech Republic in August, however this time with Solefald who are confirmed for this year’s Brutal Assault. How are you looking forward to it? Anyway, is there any possibility that also In Vain could perform at Brutal Assault when all the members of the band will be there?

Yeah, that is correct. I do not remember specific details but I remember we had a good time there. It’s going to be a lot of fun going back and playing at BA. We have tried to get in touch with the staff at the festival, but it’s not very easy when you are not a very big band. Hopefully we will be back with In Vain next time.

Few past years are marking the return of the vinyl format and almost everything is released on LP nowadays. However, In Vain’s albums still exist in CD versions only. Is there any possibility of re-releasing your albums also on LPs? I believe it would be great because I’ve always seen vinyl as something more than a CD and I think In Vain’s music really deserves to be presented on this majestic format as well…

We are thinking about it, but we also need to consider that people have to buy them, so that we are not stuck with a lot of CDs. And I am not really sure if people buy anymore…

I have the very last question for you – I noticed that this year marks the 10th anniversary of In Vain. Do you plan to celebrate it with anything special? Thank your very much for your answers. All the best!

Actually we have been thinking about doing a special gig, playing the whole “The Latter Rain” album and to bring along guests. We’ll see.

Thanks for the interview!

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