Dødheimsgard: Immersed in melancholic mystery
One of the top bands and boundary-pushing visionaries of the mid-90’s Norwegian Black Metal evolution, DHG are widely regarded as masters of dark & psychotic psychedelia-tinged extremity. The first fruits of DHG’s re-animated labour manifest in the shape of new studio album, ‘A Umbra Omega’, with original co-founding member Aldrahn (Thorns/The Deathtrip) making a return to the asylum on vocal duties alongside Vicotnik’s exquisite & unconventional compositions & structures. ‘A Umbra Omega’ is DHG’s first album since 2007’s ‘Supervillain Outcast’, and undoubtedly marks the band’s most challenging work to date; twisted, technical, sprawling epics & an inverted outlook on existence from the depths of band mastermind/writer/producer Vicotnik, with similarities drawn to previous classic DHG works such as ‘666 International’ and ‘Satanic Art’. A raw and organic production permeates the album courtesy of Vicotnik himself, with the album mastered at Strype Audio in Oslo by Tom Kvålsvoll.
HMA: ‘A Umbra Omega’ is another Dødheimsgard ‘twisted, technical with sprawling epics and an inverted outlook on existence’ record. What was the biggest challenge in writing the music and gathering ideas?
Dødheimsgard – Vicotnik: When you restart writing an album, you kind of pick up where you left off, so one of the challenges was to exit the “Supervillain” mind-frame and access a new one. Even though I had some distant idea of the mental and emotional concept I wanted to portray, I didn’t really have the tools to do so. So it took me about 30 songs to find the right expression, balance and packaging for this album. 30 songs equal a long time, considering you have to share this time between the different vocations and avenues of your life. Another aspect is that very few hands worked on this record since I wore most of the hats myself. I can really only perform one task at the time, so while I was doing one thing, there was no activity pertaining to other aspects of the process. On this album, the evolution of the music was also quite severe. Progression can sometimes mean maker a leaner, easier and more accessible product compared to previous attempts, but with this record, the very opposite ended up being the case. So pushing yourself musically to the extent that I did on “A Umbra Omega”, takes a lot out of you. It was also the first time I wrote music solely based on feeling. Which meant that I created a lot of cool stuff I eventually discarded due to not having that specific feeling that I was searching for. Another aspect was to make all this apparent chaos accessible and at the same time somewhat open for interpretation.
HMA: On a wide scale, who or what influenced your music and vision?
DHG: Real-life events were a huge source of inspiration for this album. Melancholy played a big part in it. I listened to classical music and read a lot of poetry. Getting into art that was up to several hundred years old and simultaneously timeless, helped me hone in on the musical perspective I was searching for. Seems pretty pretentious I know, but it was actually not so much for the specific musical content itself, but more in relation to the technical approach pertaining to structure and how to build music through a range of emotions rather than the classical verse Vs. chorus rendition. With this vision, I was trying to be honest, up close and personal, without it becoming cheesy, embarrassing or tasteless. Keeping it abstract to the level, that you really just manipulate the listener to what frequency to tune into, but not specifically how they experience what on the frequency. I wanted the album to be immersed in a melancholic mystery, which is rooted deep into the human mind/soul/spirit (It depends what you call it I suppose). Like when you enter a room and encounter a smell that takes your mind back 20 years to a crystal clear moment. That strangeness of standing in two moments 20 years apart simultaneously.
HMA: The cover is extremely unusual. From an artistic point of view, how did you get to the concept?
DHG: First of all the cover and design is made by Pia Isaksen, so she is the creator, not I. The mental concept behind the cover is mine though. I wanted a design that on one hand was a big contrast to the lavish musical content, but on the other hand, was in total correlation with the specific atmosphere in the very same content. The cover symbolizes the co-existence of the familiar (already explored) and the unfamiliar (un-explored). It is meant to be evocative, so it will most definitely render different emotions in different people. I like to regard the cover as a blend between the scientific and the spiritual.
HMA: You were one of the first Avant metal bands with a unique take on music. What creative challenges do you have as a musician?
DHG: The biggest challenge is being on. When I am off, I want to be on and when I am on I often don’t have the time to write music. Being a musician is not really a challenge though, you have to ensure your own growth and maintain your skills. There are always things to learn in music and I am quite an eager learner. Which is probably what gives me that window in which to approach music unconventionally. I don’t limit my musical venture to being a guitarist. Even from the start, I was very interested in how to convey the whole picture, all instruments, production and packaging. I do not limit myself to a certain niche as music-lover, thus it makes sense for me not to do so as a music-writer as well. A challenge I do encounter is when my abilities limit my ambition, but I always seem to find a way around the hurdle. I find the music itself interesting, and all the stuff pertaining to being an artist from an external perspective less interesting. Maybe this enables me to have a fresh approach to music since my main focus is the music itself and what I want to convey through it.
HMA: Many bands reduce or abandoned the extreme metal style in favor of more experimental influences? Perhaps this direction makes metal one of the most diverse music genre. Why do you think this happens?
DHG: For one, metal is a modern style of music, which is really performed on classical percussive and string instruments. That’s one factor. Another is that metal has already quite concretely grown out of something that grew out of something that grew out of something etc. So its historical lineage goes back to classical music, so re-tapping into this musical lineage at a specific point is an easy fix. A third perspective is that to play extreme metal in the first place; you have to develop a higher degree of musical understanding than the average music listener. This level of understanding gives you the opportunity to develop further and further. So since many musicians in our scene encounter this situation, it is only natural that a few of them chose to open this door to explore the musical universe… I bet you would also get some kind of a clue to which performers that are most prone to experiment with music by paying some attention to their record collection. Reasons are many, and some are more personality driven than others, so these are only a few examples.
Thank you for your time and your support.
Interview by Alex Milazzo – Copyright 2015 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.