Fenriz, a man synonymous with legends and metal folklore is best known for his work with his band Darkthrone. Along with his kvlt partner in crime Nocturno Culto, Fenriz has seen it all and heard a lot along the way and this gave shape to the wonder of Darkthrone. Darkthrone is back with its newest crushing and raw offering ‘Arctic Thunder’.
Metal Wani’s Roshan Machayya got an opportunity to have a chat with Fenriz. Read on as the duo discuss about the new album, Darkthrone through the ages, Radio Fenriz, production, and an unintentional encounter with funk.
Hello Fenriz! How is the mood in the Darkthrone camp for the release of ‘Arctic Thunder’?
We’re probably thinking of other things, except I gotta do all these interviews. We don’t talk much with each other, never did, but we AGAIN forgot to brighten the cover image before it is sent to print. Many may not know this, but sending an album cover off to print means it will become darker than what it is originally, or AS SEEN ON YOUR COMPUER, haha. Argh!
Going right into the album what was the inspiration behind ‘Arctic Thunder’ in terms of the music and the lyrics?
I can’t speak for Ted here, I imagine that he always just makes music from his own head, inspired by himself, sitting down with his guitar and making it, but that would be pure guesswork on my end. Me, on the other hand, I had a vision for THIS album arctic thunder that I would make Darkthrone a bit more introvert this time. Why? Since we FINALLY got our own studio again (thanks to Ted’s initiative back in 2005) we’ve been making a lot of freestyle records, many of the songs having lots of glint in its eyes. However, our last album shaved away some of the many styles we play and was a bit more serious but still incorporating heaps of different styles. We were very pleased with THE UNDERGROUND RESISTANCE and personally I was wondering how to top it. So years went by and I felt the same way that album was some kind of mammoth for us and it was hard to deal with the fact that we would either have to kill that mammoth or go around it. The latter was chosen (talking again about my own take on making new songs here) and I opted to shave away some more styles, leaving my usual knack for writing speed metal songs in the way of the Swedish 1983-1985 style behind. So what was there for me to make? SLOW HEAVY METAL. When slowly decided to try for another album (back in the middle of 2015) I had 4 albums in mind. This doesn’t mean that I will sit down and listen to the albums and try to copy anything, but it’s more like a road map. Or after hearing music my whole life I choose away all of those thousands of albums and songs I DO NOT want my inspiration to latch on to – instead creating a vision of a direction that I DO want to delve into. 4 albums were DREAM DEATH journey into mystery (1987 new renaissance records), SACRILEGE within the prophecy (1987 under one flag), BLACK SABBATH mob rules (1981 Warner bros.) and CANDLEMASS Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986 black dragon records). After all the songs were recorded and I was given a copy of the recorded album from Ted, I discovered that there were for instance nothing on my songs that reminded me of Candlemass so you can see that I am not exactly working like a robot or anything. However there were riffs on my songs that had the feel of the other 3 albums, and also some iron maiden, some Hellhammer, some early exodus and some autopsy and some Necrophagia 1987 style and so on. A riff will typically come like striking lightning into my brain and then I will have to hum it until I reach my guitar or I will have to record it on my phone. From there I will typically play that riff and start to make other riffs that will fit. Who knows how I make that process work and what inspires me but it is just me and that guitar and all the music I ever heard (and that, ladies and gentlemen, is A LOT) and what I choose away and that little tiny spec that I decide to keep. I will tell you a secret here – what I am really trying to write is what I would have written in 1988 if 1: I had the writing skills and drum experience back then and 2: if we didn’t go into more death metal territory, which we did in late 1988/early 1989. What I am writing is THE REAL ORIGINAL DARKTHRONE MUSIC, back to the REAL roots. It always says in biographies about us online that we started out as a death metal band but listening to our first demo it is clear to everyone that we did not, we had all sorts of inspirations that were way older than that.
When it comes to the lyrics, I am famous for never discussing those. I can say something around them, like Ted didn’t want his lyrics printed so it’s just illustrations on his lyrics in the inner sleeve. Why I don’t know of course, we don’t talk much. Nor am I a very curious person. The Wyoming Distance is about how I distance myself to others, great metaphors and writing therein. All in all when I saw the lyrics on the inner sleeve I thought it must be the best lyrics I’ve written, but that is also a typical reaction.
What was the idea behind the song “Burial Bliss”? Even the instrumental side of things were rather interesting.
Ted’s song. He refuses to comment on his work, even to me.
One might find a softer Darkthrone in songs such as “Inbred Vermin” and “Deep Lake Trespass”. The arrangements are interesting on these songs. What was the inspiration behind these two songs?
Again, Ted’s songs. I don’t think Ted’s gone softer at all, to me he brings his usual game. Before the album took shape I wanted to make only slow heavy metal and since he did a lot of that on his solo EP I thought perhaps that was the way he was going. So I told him that I was going to make slow heavy metal for the album. But when we met at the bomb shelter to record, his songs were usual Darkthrone, hahaha
As the album progressed, I found a lot of influence of blackened thrash metal bands such as Celtic Frost and Hellhammer making rounds in ‘Arctic Thunder’ along with a few elements of punk. How deep are these influences and how much of an impact have they been over the years?
I hear no punk at all on the album, and the previous one also didn’t have any but I am glad that some people think it sounds like punk. We grew up in the 70s and 80s, hence we heard a lot of music from the 60s and 70s and 80s and 80s metal is what I am bringing to the game. The only riff I made that bears any resemblance to Hellhammer perhaps is the third riff on the first song. When it comes to Ted I don’t know. He has his own mind. I am just logging in to that ever swirling 80s metal carousel of my mind when writing.
Considering the ever changing metal scene, has Darkthrone’s approach changed towards writing music? Would you insist that this approach is fresh or a little more traditionalist?
The freshness exists in the way we record, which is on this album very loud amp in front of the drums so both leaks into each other on the recording but we’ve mainly been retro since 91 so it’s an 80s thing all the way the way I see it.
What made you decide to not take up vocals for ‘Arctic Thunder’?
When I came back from the camping trip some years ago and saw the bonfire photos I thought that it would be the next Darkthrone cover. We were well pleased with our previous album and I figured we couldn’t top it so the cover image beckoned for a metal style more DIECAST and in order to create that, the easiest way was to sacrifice my urge for singing and make Ted sing the whole thing. And also sacrifice my style of beautiful speed metal ala Sweden 82-85 and just make slow heavy metal. Worked like a charm.
What was the inspiration behind Darkthrone’s heavy metal crust funk era with records such as ‘F.O.A.D’ and ‘Circle The Wagons’?
Haha, you wrote FUNK. There is to be no slapping of the bass!!! haha! It’s not much punk on them, analytically. People are just easily taken. Like with a blaze in the northern sky which they always thought was black metal but there are only 3 pure black metal tracks on it, the rest is a mix of black and death because of time limit, booked studio, not having enough time to switch from death metal to black metal. Have a black metal album cover and BOOM everyone thinks its pure black. Which it isn’t. The world and people’s brains are a strange destination indeed.
You are known to take a lot of time off to review and talk about music, how does that feel? Have you come across any interesting albums lately?
Firstly, I now get 1000+ promos a year. Capacity is blown. Out of these, ca 25% make it to the next round, meaning I don’t erase them but I keep them to listen to them fully and rate them. That’s, say, 250. Then again, half of those have songs well enough for radio Fenriz. But who do I like enough to buy on vinyl? Not many, I already have so many vinyl’s and the time I have to simply chill and listen to them are minute. So therefore. Vinyl ones this year has been Vulture, Ripper (Chile), Hexvessel, Blood Ceremony, Naevus, Spell, Tarot, and i am getting Virus, Eternal Champion, Sumerlands and a few more. Also, there is BLACK VIPER that are ruling right now.
I have been following ‘Radio Fenriz’ on Soundcloud for quite a long time now and I absolutely love every bit of it. How has your show been doing and what plans do you have for it in the future?
Well, I work 40 hours of listening and making it. Every time. And it’s free. I really can’t work for free so maybe someone wants to pay me for it. It airs on NTS radio in Britain as well but no money. It came out of all the promos I listen to, what’s the point in listening and rating if I only have the band of the week blog? Only a small point so I had to do something bigger to promote all these peoples’ music. The show went well, from the first show the Soundcloud statistics showed I had listeners in 50 lands and the statistics on Soundcloud doesn’t go further than 50, hahahaah.
The notion of ‘TrveKvlt Black Metal’ has existed as long as the genre has and even Darkthrone was at one point of time admired by many for being pretty damn kvlt. Do such notions hold well today? How would you explain what it means to be ‘TrveKvlt’ to a person who isn’t a black metal connoisseur?
No, it hasn’t. That term didn’t exist in the 80s and also not until 1993 the way I see it. Try to find an earlier mention of it. I never understood the term, it’s hopeless. Same with EXTREME METAL and 2ND WAVE BLACK METAL. Those terms didn’t exist up till 93 and frankly I don’t care much because of that.
We only did one pure black metal album anyway and that was under a funeral moon recorded in summer 1992 4 bus stops from here. Albums in genres will or will not always be classics, it’s hard to jolt them away. People out there are of course trying to figure things out but if they want to be black metal they need to listen to THE RETURN album by Bathory. A lot more, maybe.
Anything to say to the fans?
Don’t forget to listen to MALOKARPATAN