The lovely label Trollmusic only releases good to excellent albums anyway, but I’m particularly taken with the Swedes from FORNHEM with their new album “Stämman Från Berget”.
High time for an interview with the band, and my interviewer will introduce himself right away.
According to Metal Archives, you didn’t release a demo before the first album. How the hell did you get the record deal with Thor, how did you apply?
This is Solbane (various instruments) speaking to you most of the time in this interview. Vafthrudner (words & rhythm) also talks a bit.
Well, the story behind getting a deal with Troll music is quite simple really.
Vafthrudner and I decided that we didn’t want to make a demo and be under control from a label and be told what to do or not and you’ll get such and such amount of money to record and so on.
Basically, we said let’s record this album with our own money that we know is going to be so good that if no label liked it we could release it on our own. We have never thought about selling a lot of albums and becoming a “big” band or anything. We do the music for ourselves because we have something in us that we like to express, kind of like a creative outlet for the black holes in our souls… if anyone likes our music, we consider that a welcomed bonus. The goal is the music in itself, to create and record.
All that being said, I think Thor and Trollmusic has really worked out great for us. We feel like we have a good, healthy collaboration going! We are surely looking forward to do album number three and four, see if we can shock anyone, or at least raise some eyebrows…
I have to express my excitement once again: The pumping, pounding drums, the wonderfully shimmering guitars and the grating vocals – it sounds very far from modern studio sound and more like 1996.
How old are you actually?
The sound of our albums are very much calculated and intentional.
We surely get some criticism for the sound. “Fornhem has got awful sound” some say, but that is completely untrue! We have a GREAT sound for what we want to achieve! The thing about music is that at least half the experience is the sound, the production. So, can you imagine what a catastrophe it would be if we had a modern plastic over-produced sound? (I can imagine, but I don’t want to! – merula)
It would be horrible. I would be dead against releasing such a product with Fornhem.
I’m not sure that age has anything to do with the sound or the music. Maybe it does? We are three different persons in the band and of different ages with about ten years in between every band member… I grew up in the 70s, maybe that gives an explanation to why the music sounds like it does?
Some people have also expressed that we sound more like a norwegian band than a swedish band. Why is that? Maybe because we have listened mostly to the norwegian bands in our lives? I mean, Bathory are from Sweden but the other bands aren’t strong enough or great enough compared to the norwegian ones. (Hui!)
Do we do it intentionally? Well, I have a view in my head on how I want it to sound. But I don’t sit around with my guitar thinking “how can I play it more norwegian?”… That doesn’t qualify as creative work! Haha!
Do you want to keep your personalities completely out of the music, or do you want to reveal who you are and what you do for a living?
Not completely, but we want to keep out irrelevant stuff like family, favourite ice cream and such, haha! I think that we can talk about what kind of persons we are and maybe if we do something interesting in our spare time that can bring light to the creation of our music. Ok? Vafthrudner and I are, I dare say, old and bitter men with the world on our shoulders.
Love to read. I personally have a huge love for music in general (not including manufactured easy listening types of music you hear on radio and on top lists). Thuleman is the breath of fresh air in the stale black metal universe! He is still young and full of energy, very active in music and arranging concerts and so on, always has a joke up his sleeve, but who doesn’t!?
Well, there are quite a few. It’s nice that you’re more relaxed.
From above, the area around Norrköping looks great, a lot of nature. Do you guys go fishing, hiking and mushroom hunting, or do you focus your senses on the music alone?
It is a surrounding with quite a lot of nature; forests, lakes, mountains. As I said earlier we are three different people but I think we all appreciate being out in nature. Nature freshens your mind, blows out the cobwebs, makes you come alive in a sense, especially if you’ve been in the city for a long time. The city certainly is a great cause for mental illnesses and diseases.
I personally, don’t need much to be creative. Let me near a bookcase of great books to read and have a cup of tea and a couple of guitars nearby, sooner or later it will result in me creating music!
What a sympathetic attitude! Even though not everyone can live in nature, I can absolutely understand that.
“Ett Fjärran Kall” was your debut album from 2017, may I ask how long you worked on it in total (songwriting, lyrics, band rehearsals, recording)?
If memory serves me right we started working on the songs in 2014 and recorded in 2015. After that it took some time to find a record deal and after that it took some time for cover art and so on. And finally a record company has its schedule on when to release it’s titles. All of that contributed to make it a long process from the first ideas to the finished and released album.
In songs like “Úrdjupets svärta” you seem to have a passion for folklore. Do you like Garmarna or also Hedningarna, or do you orientate yourselves, if at all, on original folklore?
If you mean traditional music or folk music, then yes! I like both those bands but there are alot of folkmusic based bands out there. I used to listen to stuff like Skyclad and The Corrs when I was younger and in Sweden we have loads of old bands that embraced the northern traditional/folk music in the 70s.
I strongly recommend you to check out Kebnekaise (who are still active and make albums!).
Recently I also discovered Barbora Xu who is a lady playing various citterns and singing in finnish. Very expressive, minimalistic and most importantly not plastic. (Very good tip!!! – merula)
Other than that; black metal has a long tradition of adding folk music elements to it; Bathory obviously, early Ulver, Isengard, Kampfar, early Satyricon and Enslaved of course. Obviously there are more bands out there but I don’t know every band in the universe so… that being said, I like folk music, classical, medieval and renaissance too without modern influences.
There are four years between your two albums so far. Do you generally work at a medium pace and have been working on new songs bit by bit all this time, or were you busy with completely different things and then suddenly started again a few months ago?
We work a bit slow I think. But you need to understand that Vafthrudner and I have played together since 2013 (in Fördärv first and then in Fornhem) and we just kept plowing, making songs, rehearsing, recording and releasing in a seemingly endless cycle. But after the release of “Ett fjärran kall” we both were exhausted and needed time off. We started rehearsing for the second album in 2018. But this thing called life comes in between from time to time. And since we were only two persons, we have to wait for each other because none of us could finish alone without the other. But since Thuleman joined it will get easier. Because then, if 2 can go on for a time without the third then we will and the third person can catch up whenever he’s ready, no problems.
As much as I like “Ett Fjärran Kal”, “Stämman Från Berget” is a considerable further development. The sound sounds much more differentiated, you also seem to gain more experience in songwriting.
The slowly building guitar melody of “Den Längsta Dagen” develops into an absolute earworm!
Would you like to comment on the album?
Well, first off; thanks for hearing the quality of our music! We have worked considerably on songwriting.
I remember I analysed the first album and asked myself – what is good and what can be improved? One of those things was to simplify song structures, they needed less abrupt changes and more smooth progression.
One of our goals is to create atmosphere and minimalism and you can’t do that if you are too abrupt or play passages too short. I think we succeeded in getting longer lines in the music, creating the meditational atmosphere we long for but it can always be even better.
Melody, as you mention, is also important. For me, hooks and memorable riffs and melodies are very important. If there is no melody or good catchy riff, then there is no song.
If you don’t remember anything from listening to a song or an album, then it’s a failure. I work hard to create music that draws you in and stays with you after it’s passed. I think Fornhem is pretty good at it as a whole but we can still develop and progress even more and further! Just wait for album #3, it will be something special!
I’m very happy to wait and I’m already excited!
One can learn a bit about your lyrics from the booklet, but for those who are unfamiliar with the Swedish language, could you tell us something more about your lyrics, or some of them?
The question now goes to Vafthrudner, who writes all the texts.
Well, on this album there are four lyrics (the fifth track, Untergang, is instrumental) and they all tell different stories while at the same time manage to melt together in some ways.
The first track, Den Längsta Dagen (The Longest Day) is based on Ingmar Bergman’s film, The Seventh Seal from 1957 which takes place during the medieval times.
A knight returns home to Sweden/Scandinavia after fighting ten years in the Holy Land for the church.
During this time he has lost his faith in God and back home there is a plague going on. In a really poetic way he makes a deal with Death, who comes to collect him, to postpone his demise while they play a game of chess.
This track, aswell as the movie, is not so much about losing one’s faith but the fear of death/the unknown.
The second track, Utharba Spa (old Norse: “I predict ruin”), is an imaginative interpretation of a runic stone in the south of Sweden which is quite unique since it contains a curse (the song title). In modern Swedish, this phrase translates to “Jag spår fördärv” and since Fördärv was the name of the project which me and Solbane started up with, releasing the EP The Echo of Emptiness in 2013 and the full length Between the Eternities in 2014, I thought it would be fitting to use this here, also because, in my opinion, there is a lot of Fördärv musicwise in this track.
The third track, Förlist (“shipwrecked”), was initially about a ship going under in a storm.
Since I am born and bred by the coast I´ve always been fascinated by nautical themes. But the lyrics turned into something deeper as the ship/boat is portrayed as a vessel which harbour the spirit on the way through life; an image you can find in a variety of mythologies.
I used a bit of Norse references in this one but I see this kind of symbolism as something universal.
The fourth and final track (with lyrics that is), Stämman från Berget (The voice from the mountain) is based on the opening chapters of Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” where the hermit Zarathustra descends from the mountain where he has been living for ten years to tell the people that “God is dead”.
I see this declaration of Nietzsche as somewhat of a starting point of our modern, secularised Western society and I think this song concludes the album in a perfect way since it somewhat mirrors the first song; in Den Längsta Dagen there is a faithful knight who has been fighting for the cause of God in the isolated desert for ten years and then loses his faith while also facing death.
In Stämman från Berget a hermit concludes after ten years (note; same time span) of isolation (the mountain) that God is dead (if he ever existed that is) and this “new knowledge” will undoubtedly lead to desperation in the people’s search for the meaning of life and fear of death.
Thank you Vafthrudner for these deep insights into your work.
Do you also play live, or do you plan to?
Solbane is back again.
We have no immediate plans so far but we are open to possibilities. Right now we don’t have any plans on playing live but we are not against it. It needs some planning and rehearsing, and we also need to look at a possible live line-up since we need to be at least a five-piece band live.
I have to say though, that I have played live in the past in other bands and the actual time on stage is most of the time the moment you live for and appreciate, unless something goes horribly wrong.
But everything around it is a hassle and eats your energy up. So, that means it’s important for us that the circumstances for us to play live in the future are good to minimise exhaustion and feelings of it being more or less meaningless. Basically, what I’m talking about is that I’m too old (and too cold?) to tour around in a mini bus, playing for a case of beer and petrol money… haha!
Then maybe you should try the “Alt-Fränkische Landbier”, I discovered it a few days ago and am totally thrilled.
But above all: men, thank you very much for your effort!
Thank you for this interview! We liked this because it was a bit different than the usual interviews we get. Great to talk about the music more than ideology for once. To the readers I would like to say; if you’ve come this far in reading then, thank you! Support Fornhem by buying and listening to our music. Spread the word to others that you think may appreciate our raw music!
Over and out, scream and shout! Cheers from Solbane and Vafthrudner. Thuleman says hi too!