Heavy Music Artwork speak to Odin’s sons Kampfar
Norwegian black metal band Kampfar – an ancient Norse name for Odin – have been going strong for 20 years, producing a unique black metal sound which has been described as raw, dark and crushing. Singing in their native Norwegian, with some English lyrics thrown in along with a healthy dash of folk metal influencing their melodies, the band are very much rooted in their Scandinavian heritage but at the same time the themes they explore through their music can be understood and appreciated by metal fans from all over the world. After a hiatus of nearly 4 years the band are about to release their 6th studio album, Djevelmakt, and embark on a European tour. Here, Kampfar frontman Dolk explains more about their influences, their sound, the joys of touring and the current state of the Norwegian black metal scene.
HMA: You have a new album, “Djevelmakt”, being released on January 27 – what themes do you explore in your new songs and where do you draw your inspiration from?
Kampfar: The word “Djevelmakt” means “Devilpower” (and it’s Infernal…Oh yes indeed!) “Raise the banner and be your own strong King or Queen” is more or less the message coming through on “Djevelmakt”!
The new album is anti-religion, but not anti-human, if I may say so. This time it’s more direct than ever before. It’s all about condemnation! All religions condemn you to an infernal place (Gehenna, Hell, you name it) if you don’t apply to their laws. All these places are constructed normally out of places that exist or existed here on Earth during mankind’s time here. It’s still so very delightful – or maybe you can say scary – to see what an impact these places still have on us even today. It`s scary… Where is the free man, where is the free strong self-thinking individual that thinks and choose its own path in life, regardless of what others condemn you for? Damned if you do and damned if you don’t!
Fuck it!! We all head toward the darkness no matter what we do, if we listen to those who speak about salvation. This goes both for the “light” side of religion and for the “dark” side of it. This album is about that: it’s about what these idiots tell you to do, and about the condemnation, if you don’t! Light and darkness and the human in between. The “DEVIL POWER” is not something that only lives and breathes in the “satanic world”; it is breathing in all parts of society, and it’s definitely alive in the true sense of the word in all religions of today!
Kampfar is my life, Kampfar is my second family.
Kampfar is not my “hobby”; it’s so much more serious than that. It’s not an escape from everyday life either! It’s my life pure and simple! So to answer your question…. Where do I draw my inspiration from? Life and the history of life, and societies in general. I am a Norwegian by soul and by nature, and my grandmother taught me very early about the main forces in nature and life. And that’s what still brings me forward if I may say so?
HMA: You chose pre-existing artworks for the new album cover, two by Polish painter Beksinski and one by English artist John Dollman, before you had even started recording the album. Why did you select these works of art and how did they affect your music?
Kampfar: Well it`s a blast first of all! A true sense of art! Period! But maybe even more important, it’s also so closely connected to the lyrical condemnation on “Djevelmakt” and the essence of the lyrics and music. It’s just perfect! Nothing more to say really. We knew immediately when we saw these artworks that this was it… these are the paintings for 2014. The Beksinski painting is just perfect to capture the lyrical essence of the whole album. The Dollman painting is a soundtrack to both “Our Hounds, Our Legion” (last song on the album and the song “Swarm Norvegicus”) and it all fits together perfectly in my opinion.
The cover paintings were more or less picked due to the great details in the paintings, which already suited some of our new work before even “picking” those paintings. But some songs have also actually been directly inspired by those paintings too. Even though the thick “red line” of the lyrics and music was set already from the very beginning really.
HMA: What was it like working with Jonas Kjellgren and Peter Tägtgren again? You previously worked with them on the powerful black metal album, “Mare”, your last release featuring guitarist Thomas.
Kampfar: Yes, we worked with Peter on Mare and it was a joy to collaborate with someone with the skills he possesses. Through that process, we also met Jonas, who mastered that album. When we decided to go back, Peter’s schedule didn’t allow for doing the production, since he was out doing a large number of shows, meaning we would have had to postpone the album half a year. So we talked to Jonas, and he came in and did an amazing job, helping us develop this album in ways that definitely made it a stronger piece in total. Peter still had time to mix, so we combined things and got the best of both men.
I think the input they had on this album was more or less the technical skills more than anything else. We are very demanding when it comes to what we want in the end.. So I guess we have the most input, in the end, I must say. But we could not have done this album without them… That’s 100% definite.
HMA: This year marks the band’s 20th birthday; how has your sound and your philosophy behind the music evolved over the last two decades?
Kampfar: Well, how to answer that one? At least this new album is definitely following in the same footsteps as our previous album “Mare”. And if Mare was more accessible than before in Kampfar’s musical history, then this album is that way too. But our goal has never been to be more accessible. It has been more about finding the ultimate old-school sound but with a modern twist that suits Kampfar. There is no point whatsoever to go back into the basement and record something with a tape recorder again. Face it we live in the year 2014! What’s the point in not using the technology that’s here? The music is not truer because it sounds like shit – or is it? So there you go…Yes, we want to be modern! But hell yeah we belong to the old-school side of Black Metal too… have no doubts!
So, all in all, I guess nothing has changed on a huge scale. It’s more about small details in the music and sound in general than a hugely different way of thinking. Luckily I would say that I feel even more connected with blood and mind now than ever before in Kampfar’s history. I do not know if that will last through my lifetime, no one knows. But it has been so for over 2 decades now and I still cannot see the end of the line. So that’s the situation really. Pure and simple!
HMA: You will be going on a European tour from March through to August; are you excited by the prospect?
Kampfar: Of course we are. Kampfar is a live band and we are eager to be going out there, onto the battlefield again.
We have never in Kampfar`s history got such a packed schedule for live shows at this early stage of the year… So I guess 2014 will be an active one for us. It all starts in March with the beginning of our European tour…. So let’s see where 2014 ends. I don’t know that yet, but there are more offers for going live now than ever before so I take that as a good sign.
HMA: You only have one UK date on your tour, is there a reason for this and are you planning to do more concerts in the UK in the future?
Kampfar: Yep, the 3rd of April we are doing London/Camden and “The Underworld” again! It’s so “gritty” there and the crowd is amazing every time. I just love it. That’s how it should be! With “Spreading The Plague MMXIV” Tour we take with us “Hate” from Poland, “Velnias” from the US and the Northern warriors “Iskald” from Norway. All of these bands belong to the true hardworking underground! That’s why this tour is so great. Major underground excels will hit London that night! Anyway, we had plans for doing a few more gigs in the UK for this tour, but due to several booking issues that did not happen now. But we will definitely return to the UK later on again with Kampfar, be sure of that. But right now London and Camden is the only place to be if you want this package!
HMA: How do you feel about the current black/pagan metal scene in Norway?
Kampfar: Hmm, back in the early nineties my world was about death threats, watching my back for enemies all the time, and about a full mailbox full of letters every day from people worldwide and in the Norwegian scene. I got around 30 letters every week back then. The scene was so much stronger back then here in Norway and all the words meant something. Today it doesn’t. But as paradoxical as it may sound, my worst enemy back then was not the Church or Christians or whatever. It was people from the black metal scene in general. There was an internal war going on and the brotherhood was not that great, as people seem to talk about with glorified words these days.
But of course, back then the scene was more alive, both the local Norwegian one and the worldwide one. Today there is hardly any local Norwegian scene left. It seems like it has left the building with only us “Old guys” remaining. So it’s really not comparable to today’s scene.
Anyway… compared to today’s scene, I guess its all about music and even the search for fame now. But the new Norwegian bands of today cannot get the same respect these days. It’s just impossible, pure and simple! But some seem to surf on the wave from the past of course and get credit still, just for being Norwegian. But that happens more and more seldom and is an underground phenomenon I believe.
Kampfar’s new album Djevelmakt is out now on the Indie Recordings label. The band begin their European tour on 28 March 2014 – for more information go to www.kampfar.com
Interview by Amy Van De Casteele – Copyright 2013-2014 © Heavy Music Artwork. All Rights Reserved.