Dark Funeral need no introduction, veterans of the second wave of Swedish Black Metal summarises them at the very best. Despite the comings and goings of many musicians through the grand halls of Dark Funeral, only one sole member from the start remains - Lord Ahriman. Taking a place in this majestic and grandeur embodiment of extreme metal is vocalist Heljarmadr, we spoke with the band's 4th vocalist at Bloodstock Open Air.
"Back in the day when you got hold of an album above the Arctic Circle, even if it's not the best one you would listen to it until you liked it!"
Your new album "We Are The Apocalypse" came out this year, what was done differently with this one compared to your previous releases?
"We had the same procedure for composing it, the main difference was COVID, because we were not interrupted by shows in between and so this meant we could focus entirely on the new album for once. I think that maybe allowed the album to take another leap, a progression from the previous but I also feel it's a natural progression from our last album."
You mentioned COVID which of course affected the entire world, let alone the music industry, ironically it gave you more time to focus on the new album like you said.
"Yeah! What else could we do? All of the festivals and concerts were cancelled – actually at the time we weren't touring that much, we was already planning to start the new album. So for that year we only had a few club and festival shows booked, anyway it gave us a window to work in peace and calm, because we could work until we were done. There was no rush."
Once the COVID lockdown had ended, how did the Swedish metal scene react?
"Well it was a bit weird in the beginning because concerts started happening again, but people were reluctant to buy tickets in case they turned into vouchers (for rescheduled shows), so it was a slow start I think. Now it's starting to wake up and I think this year, summer festivals, people are starting to go and understand that you're not going to die by having fun again, I hope this year will bring the live scene back."
With that thought in mind, it must be a huge honour for you to play Bloodstock this year?
"Yeah! I mean it's super cool to be out again, playing everywhere in front of thousands and thousands of people, it just proves we can get past this kind of s**t."
Looking forward to your tours for the rest of 2022 and into 2023, what countries will you be visiting and who are the support?
"Festivals are ending now, we have a show in Israel coming up which was postponed for a couple of years (they have since played early Sept), we have an autumn festival in Switzerland but after that a US / Canada tour with Cannibal Corpse. In September we have a festival in Mexico (since played), next year is going to be crazy but right now I don't have any information to provide – but there are a lot of things in the pipeline so keep checking our website and social media."
How did you personally get into metal music?
"I come from the very north of Sweden, right above the Arctic Circle, so it was not so easy to get hold of albums – it was through tape trading that I got into metal music, I traded with a cousin who is a few years older and through that I started off with Swedish death metal – bands like Entombed and Dismember, then I turned over to the Norwegian black metal scene, so yeah I've been around since the early-ish 90's listening to this music. When someone in the town had a new album out, everyone had heard it.
The kids today don't know how good they have it (with YouTube being accessible per se), they have it too good! Back in the day when you got hold of an album above the Arctic Circle, even if it's not the best one you would listen to it until you liked it! You'd give it more chances, nowadays if it does not grab your attention in two seconds it's gone. It took weeks to get something, you'd pay money to someone using a bank account and then hoped for the best hahaha sometimes you got ripped off, other times you got the stuff, sometimes you get something completely different to what you ordered because they were out of stock and so they would send something else because they could not get hold of what you ordered."
Suffice to say things have gotten better logistically speaking, but with regards to older mediums, how do you feel about vinyl's resurgence?
"I love vinyl, I think it's the ultimate medium when buying an album, I do listen to streaming services and CD's when in the car, but there is something special about putting on the vinyl and right now the vinyl pressing plants are so full up, all albums are being delayed because of this so it's kind of cool that it's become so big."
What did your parents think about you getting into and playing black metal music?
"I remember my dad in the mid 90's coming into my room and he was like 'oh this is the f**king noise', I think I was listening to Darkthrone (Transylvanian Hunger) quite loud on my CD player and he thought it was a tap running somewhere in the house and so he was looking for water damage. So no I wouldn't say he was too supportive back then, but now that generation sees that we're travelling the world and so they have to respect what it is, even if they don't particularly like the music they have to respect it, you cannot like everything."
Bloodstock cherishes and gives opportunities for unsigned and upcoming bands, what advice would you give them across all factions?
"Well I'm not sure because I also play in an underground band so playing shows and driving around in a mini van, I love that part of the scene too, if you love what you do keep doing it, if you don't like it, don't do it. That's the sole bit of advice I can offer, otherwise keep practising your instrument , the time will come when you have to play a show and haven't slept in two days, you have to play your songs so are you really sure?"
Swedish black metal cemented itself in the 80's and 90's, so what is the current scene like?
"I think there are lots of bands out there playing, this genre fixation has also been loosening up a bit, there's a lot of crossover genres going on and I think it's cool that every generation finds it's own path around it, because in some ways black metal has become adulterated rock."
Going forward and aside from the tours, what other plans does Dark Funeral have?
"I think the rest of this year and next year will be mainly touring, and then maybe we will start thinking about future music, but now we just want to celebrate the new album."
How would you summarise Bloodstock in 3 words?
"It's my first time here so I'm just embracing my first impressions here. But right now it's 'Warm As F*ck*'."
Bloodstock Open Air always loves to support unsigned talent across the UK and overseas, the 2022 edition saw Viction trample the scorching fields of Catton Park (having won the Norwegian Metal 2 The Masses final) and unleash their wizardry upon the masses during their New Blood Stage set, sparking off their first ever circle pit - a hallmark of appreciation for great music.
Viction spoke to GMA that very evening before their eventual trip home to Oslo via Derby and London.
Who came up with the band name and what does it mean? How long have you been going?
"It just popped in to my head and that was that, I don't have any meaning for it – it was just a cool name for the band.
The band has been an idea since 2019, but the four of us as a band have been going since 2020, it was born right before COVID hit, we were born 2-3 months before it, we won the first heat of that year's M2TM right before COVID hit. It was like 'oh we just won, ah no'. It was 6 days before everything locked down.
First we started out as a quartet, had our first practise and then immediately after signed up to M2TM, we played our heat and win and then 'blows raspberry', nope. The people hosting it were really cool with us and other bands reached the semi's, was about 2 other bands and had a direct ticket to the semi's this year... so technically 2-in-1 I guess..."
You won the Metal 2 The Masses Norway heats, that must have been spectacular for you?
"It was absolutely incredible, it took us up until the day we left for Bloodstock to realise 'oh my god this is happening, we are going to play Bloodstock!' and even now it's still unbelievable to think this has happened."
Tell us about your trip from Norway to the UK, was it straightforward?
"Well there is a story. We travelled to Oslo Gardemoen airport and the SAS guy behind the counter tells us 'oh you have to bring your guitars as hand-luggage because they are not in hard cases' and we were like 'excuse me, what??' and luckily some older, more experienced guy came over and was like 'this guy is new, he does not know what he is talking about, just throw it with the rest of your luggage'.
Here in the UK, shout out to the taxi services here... improve! It's been impossible to get taxis, we're a bit excited to see how we would get back to Derby after this. We almost missed our train to Derby yesterday because the taxi driver was 30 minutes late. Super frustrating. Other than the taxis, everything has been great."
When people think of Norwegian metal, black metal comes to the fore, but what metal genres are the current trend right now?
"There has been quite a few death and doom metal bands going on lately, there is always the occasional black metal, but there are very few black metal bands who can really make it nowadays because 99% of the time you'll get a black metal band who tries to sound like Burzum or Mayhem, or maybe Darkthrone, everybody goes 'I've seen it before', that's why we want to give a shout out to our friends in BOLZÖ, modern black metal, very influenced by Keep Of Kalessin and Emperor, but with their own unique twist on it – catchy and demonic."
Trollfest entered the Norwegian national heats for the Eurovision Song Contest, so would you guys enter for next year?
"Weelllll..... Eurovision (laughs), we don't think Viction really fits Eurovision – maybe if we were a Finnish band, they always want to enter metal bands. Plus we have a hard time writing 3-minute songs (laughs all around), we have one song that's marginally near that time length, but we don't want to mime.
However Trollfest should have represented Norway, our bassist loves Eurovision and Trollfest is the perfect fit for Eurovision, they have a catchy song, fun costumes and original music. 50% of Eurovision is like boring ballads, it's the fun colourful stuff that actually gets votes, but Norway always ends up sending it's s***y ideas, and what we haven't won anything since 2010 with Alexander Rybak, that wasn't bad but there now needs to be something fresh, Trollfest was a breath of fresh air.
[Instead you sent Subwoolfer]
Yeah, not a fan of that, I'm not going to feed any wolves bananas....
As Norway geographically is a huge country, how would you organise a Norwegian tour? Surely you'd have to fly to Tromso?
"Haha, we have the most expensive plan tickets in the world, like you could fly to the USA for the same price as flying to Tromso and this is the problem with the Norwegian metal scene, everything north of Trondheim is often left behind. When bands tour Norway, they usually always head to Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim or Stavanger, and even then it's difficult. Another thing is that, most of these Norwegian tours, most shows are on the weekends, like Friday's and Saturday's etc., not like one day or every other day, so it kind of makes it more convenient to drive to shows – saving money by not flying, but at the same time it's not one of the best countries to tour in.
Unless you're a big band, you can't do shows on weekdays. After COVID, the metal scene was struggling a lot, especially in Oslo where there not many people going out unless there was a huge band playing. So we've been very lucky and feel blessed to come and play in the UK.
We heard the scene in the UK is way better now, of course it's cheaper for us to come play in the UK rather than the other way round. We bought some ham from Tesco the night before our show, you could buy a steak for £5 but in Norway at least £12 for that... and that's the cheap kind!
From the songs you have released, which ones are your favourites and why?
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
"Finishing our album is our main priority and we will be supporting Indian thrashers Kryptos in November, they are awesome and I've been a fan of them for years, so when we were booked to be their support I was over the moon.
After the build-up to our visit to the UK and playing Bloodstock, we would love to come back to the UK, we're already in talks with some people for shows in 2023. We will be back."
Summarise Bloodstock with only one word.
Any hello's or greetings you wish to send out?
"Thank you to everyone who came and saw us, thank you to anyone who has been listening to our songs, thank you to everyone who has been following us over the past couple of years. We cannot wait to show ad bring everyone more music.
What he said (laughs all around).
Thanks to everyone involved in this, it's amazing and I could not have imagined this 2 years ago, so the fact that we are here now and played the New Blood Stage, it's insane."