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An Open Invitation Into Carnage With FENRIZ From DARKTHRONE

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Darkthrone have been creating musical masterpieces ever since their inception in 1986.

Following their debut album Soulside Journey, the next three full-lengths – often referred to as ‘the unholy three’ – set the benchmark for black metal in the early 90s, though in truth they’ve never been the kind to rest on such laurels – distilling elements of vintage punk, doom, thrash and death into their own sonic fingerprint and continuing to test that equation throughout the years. It’s been quite the journey, having won cryptic pair Nocturno and Fenriz legions of loyal fans around the world. This tradition will only continue with latest masterpiece It Beckons Us All.

Fenriz took time out to answer some questions from HEAVY about It Beckons Us All, which is out now.

HEAVY: Darkthrone released your latest album It Beckons Us All back on April 26. How has the early reception been?

FENRIZ: Howdy! Hello to my Aussie friends! Andrew Pitt especially! I guess Ted and also especially me has taken decades worth of precautions to NOT get involved or received in any reception or feedback as almost ANYTHING will end up in our brains as disturbing noise while working on the next album. I always work on a next album while Ted starts working circa 3 months before we start recording. We’re like two kids in our sandboxes with full artistic freedom always better left alone to play and do our jobs which is basically epic rock and metal at this point.

It’s mostly sms’s from friends or some mails from friends that reach us (little do they know that we don’t really NEED pats on the back but with friends…well, you can’t shun friends, can you? HAHA! Sorry, friends! Anyway, it’s always just a small fraction of friends that write, some on this album, some on that album.

H: As a band how do you gauge an album’s success or impact in the modern age of music where everything is so impersonal and digitalized?

F: Sometimes we get some summaries at the end of the year, doesn’t happen often, some report on fantastic streaming numbers and whatnot, but our unit Darkthrone kind of took off there in 2016/2017, like we had our breakthrough on our 16th album or something, still not sure what happened but since then the growth has been steady after a big positive bump back then.

However, if one album goes really well then it will be reflected in the payouts half a year – a year later but if one album suddenly becomes really successful then it is all the more pressure on the next album. And we don’t really abide to pressure. So again, we’re best left toiling away at our life’s work; Darkthrone. At this point we just want to KEEP CALM AND STAY METAL but our songs are, I believe, kind of REACHING OUT INTO OTHER WORLDS and more on that on the next question.

H: Tell us about the album from a musical point of view and what you were going for with it.

F: Yeah, we really do not discuss any direction or sound changes in the years before recording a new album, if anyone makes drastic changes  I am sure they would tell the other person but we found our own sound with Arctic Thunder which we worked on in 2014-2016 and we’ve just been elaborating on that and broadening our sound since then. To us it was a big step when a coincidence occurred in springtime 2019, firstly we had returned to our bomb shelter rehearsal/recording space at Kolbotn in 2015 and we were HAPPY AS LARRY about that since it was an important piece of our history since we first started rehearsing and recording there in 1988 and 1989, it was our fourth rehearsal place but finally one in our homestead. But this bomb shelter got deemed unfit for human activities in early 2019 and at the same time one major component of Ted’s already redundant mini studio that we recorded all albums on since 2005 was lost and we had to find another studio. And we ended up at a studio called Chaka Khan with tons of vintage equipment and ran by a bossa nova group. Ole & Silje Huleboer. Well, we were never, like other oldie bands, going for some safe metal studio anyway where you get the boring soulless sound. We find our own ways to make, most importantly, our metal sounding like it is ALIVE and played by actual personalities. So I guess that’s the basis of it all. This time we collaborated much more than any studio visit before and we were on a higher creative level.

H: There’s only seven songs on It Beckons Us All so I thought we would go through each track individually and you can tell us more about it, starting with the album opener Howling Primitive Colonies.

F: I don’t really write single material so Ted’s 3 songs with lyrics was the ones I chose for singles for the album, starting with howling primitive COLONOSCOPIES hahaha, this song starts with the outlandish intro so set the mood for our outlandish and epic heavy metal, we made the bell sound on the 2nd riff ourselves by hitting the ride cymbal that has been used on ALL Darkthrone demos and albums since summer of 1989 and taking it down some octaves. Anyway this song is the most “regular” of the album, with many riffs re-occurring, we often like to drift away in linear songwriting apart from this song. It struck me as an opener as the first riff seemed to me like some delightful rock/heavy that Tribulation from Sweden (the new Tribulation not the 1980s one even though they are also cool) has been doing so masterly in the 2010s.

H: Eon 3.

F: Eon 3 is part 3 of the ongoing Eon saga. A poem I wrote after coming home from an Eternal Hails session in 2021, January, So I had this long poem that would not fit into normal songs and then I figured that we had this old instrumental called Eon that was made in late 1988/early 1989 and features on both our Thulcandra demo early 89 and first album that we recorded in September 1990 in Stockholm. So what can be done to recite a poem? Instrumentals! The poem is larger than life so it needs a pompous diva like me to recite them, I thought this time. So away I went. The Eon saga has songs starting with the last riff of the previous Eon track so that they will fit together and since the song is mine it is mostly linear meaning not many reoccurring riffs but instead like finding new parts all along and different mods, I am extremely happy with the riffs on it, first the fade in from Eon 2, then a strong riff that could have maybe been on bonded by blood and then some and then the Sisofys-riff that Apollyon calls it which is like lifting something heavy on your shoulders and then dropping it and doing it again and dropping it further the next time. Then a more uplifting riff that is also slowed down and then the final led heavy riff that is one of the best doom riffs I’ve written.

H: Black Dawn Affiliation.

F: Our first single, I’m pretty sure most people have heard it by now, Ted’s song and first choice for single on my part. And so it became that. The choir in the middle was Ted’s idea and he has those ideas very seldom and Silje asked me to fill in with higher notes and it all became spectacular, ALL of Ted’s riffs on this album really hit the spot for me but since he has never nerded on metal it is hard for both him and me to say much about his songs as they do not come with references and we do not discuss the songs between our selves, every time we do an album it is more like “I made 4 songs, about 25 minutes in length, no fast parts except for one” or something like that. He sends me his songs when they are done and I rehearse the drums in my mind while listening. And the final part of this song I remember loving it at once and when we hit the studio and Ted said let’s collaborate more it’s like “Oh, I have ideas for THAT part” I say and off I go noodling on the synth finding perfect floating sounds and chords and I fill out with my vocal which sound like they were drawn from within me from the first rock album I ever got back in 1973 which was The Doors Morrison Hotel.

H: And In That Moment I Knew The Answer.

F: “Oh, and I made an instrumental,” Ted says. He rarely does but he did not envision any lyrics on it and I’m like “OK” and then I hear it and again he made this beautiful last part where I again have synth ideas and I also jam the bass on that last part but before that he has like two riffs playing together on and off and the morbid feel of one of those riffs made me think it could have been on DR SHRINKERS extremely great THE EPONYM demo from 1990, they were supposed to be on earache after that but it fell through somehow.

H: The Bird People Of Nordland.

F: 2nd single, due to a diverse but consistent array of 3 first riff, and riff nr 3 sounds to me like Queensryche 1984 style and we enjoy playing it so much, we are entranced by it and I love that riff so much I want to move into the riff and live there. Also has the only “fast” part of the album but we never play faster than Yardbirds top speed in 1964 or any polka, haha! Lyrics are about something as un metal as symbiotic relationship with humans and eider bird in Nordland for centuries but OH SNAP we just made it metal!

H: The Heavy Hand.

F: I have been playing without fuzz while making/taking down riffs (I get most of my riffs since 2015 while watching sports so influences are impossible to trace, we’re basically influenced by ourselves now, I reckon) since 1996. This is of course extremely shocking but I figured if a riff sounds good on an unplugged electric guitar or acoustic guitar it will sound even better in the studio. Oh well, so I bought a fuzz pedal and also bought a rehearsal peavy amp from Kickan in Nekromantheon in December 2022 and what happened immediately? Riff 2 and 3 on THE HEAVY HAND. Those riffs are some of my best construction and they came immediately. First of those riffs sounds like Celtic Frost, I started playing cuz of Celtic Frost and Cryptic Slaughter so Tom G‘s riff style has become a part of my life. So I figured I’d make a Celtic Frost style song with other CF riffs I had lying about and just have it in one tempo to break completely with the other material I had for the album. After it was done the album was too long for me, I prefer 37-minute albums, so I wanted it to be on the next album but I was voted down. I also felt it stood in the way of our progress and style of the album but the others said it was a must to have it on the album. I’m still not sure whether it fits. Still, first CF type song I made since Alle Gegen Alle on the Sardonic Wrath album of 2004.

H: The Lone Pines Of The Lost Planet.

F:  My magnum opus AGAIN after THE SEAS song on the previous album Astral Fortress. “classical intros” yeah those were a thing in rock, probably Led Zeppelin had them and many others, for me it started with Black Diamond by KISS and then Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath Dio era and then a LOT of it started to figure in thrash, my guess is that thrash took it from the same sources. I had a guitar set up from THE SEAS that I wanted again here but that didn’t happen so this sounds more ordinary. I started making these kind of intros as soon as I started the band in Xmas 86 so it’s not strange to have it here, although I always want Ted to make these WITHIN songs and not before the song as I do but that also never seems to materialize. Then a massive first real riff with a gong we also made ourselves hitting my old strange china which is really an old obscure hi-hat bottom and taking it down some octaves. Riff feels like The Sign of the Southern Cross by Black Sabbath and then comes a riff I actually kind of ripped off from my fave riff of a band called CRYPT SERMON and then an even slower part which feels like a mix of 86 Candlemass and 85 Celtic Frost and then comes a jam-riff with layered harmony and then a death metal riff and then the strange middle part which I made while playing around on the guitar some months before. I’m falling, when I say that it is a homage to FALLIN by Delia Derbyshire 1964 insanely great piece (thanks Mat McNerney) and the modulator guitar effect I brought in on my Cerebus effect pedal and that’s an effect that was cool in the 60s but I know it most from listening to Voivod and the water stream on that part was recorded by me in the forest. Then the last part where I had this riff I loved to play that sounds maybe like Jake E Lee on Ultimate Sin by Ozzy 1986 and I sing on this riff too.

H: I notice there is no song called It beckons Us All which suggests the title has greater significance?

F: WELL SPOTTED! it really has a greater significance but I prefer not to have titles explained to me, titles can mean all things to all minds. But I came up with the title once when I was listening to Children of the Damned by Iron Maiden.

H: You have released well over 20 albums over the course of your career. How would you say Darkthrone’s sound has grown or changed from your debut Soulside Journey to It Beckons Us All?

F: It has warped in and out of itself but we always count the 4 demos as well and they are more and more important when looking at especially my new material as I was really reaching for what we are doing with my songs now at that time but we didn’t have the talent or resources to do it back in the 80s and now I can finally do it with songs like Eon 3 and the Lone Pines Of The Lost Planet on this record and several other songs on previous albums. Anyway we have pretty much touched base with the following styles over the years, heavy metal, epic, doom, death, black, some punk, some rock. I mean there are several combinations and ways to twist and turns but we are a big fan of the spontaneous too and coincidences and now we have, let’s say 9 albums left in us to do and I’d be surprised if we suddenly end up playing modern power metal or crossover (as much as I love Cryptic Slaughter and Crumbsuckers).

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