With Darkthrone due to release their latest album Eternal Hails on June 25, we knew we had to track down Fenriz for an update on proceedings.
Unfortunately, tracking him down isn’t as easy as that so we had to send him out some questions via email and were lucky enough to be one of only two Australian publications that reached the great man…
HEAVY – Darkthrone will be releasing your latest album, Eternal Hails, on June 25. What can you tell us about the album musically?
Fenriz – Initially it was supposed to follow in the tracks of our previous albums Arctic Thunder and Old Star but an abundance of riffs started to appear and I might have texted Ted that my songs seemed to become much longer with typically more riffs to them and PERHAPS he started to steer his boat into similar territories because when he sent me his first song (which ended up becoming VOYAGE TO A NORTH POLE ADRIFT) it was certainly and by far his most epic and varied song to date. It all became epic. With epic songs I mean lots of rhythm changes and various parts. I also feel epic metal can be a long jam like the ninth wave by Manilla Road or our own quintessence track from 94 but structurally we are closer to epic tracks like Kathaarian Life Code, really. It’s got a lot of doom and black and heavy vibes, this album.
What goals did you have going into the album and did you achieve them.
Oh, we are just trying to survive! I mean as usual we come to the studio with the songs ready and the goal is to not collapse hahaha, we usually go for take one or take two but having 7-10 minute long songs it is nerve-wracking. But we were back in a “normal” studio for the first time in 17 years, it felt like a new start for Darkthrone, especially because I knew what cover image we would have this time, the cover image I had copied for correspondence with the scene back in 1988 and I knew our songs would be closer than ever to my visions for Darkthrone back in 1988 and then we had Ole and Silje helping us in the studio with all that ancient equipment. We are very HANDS OFF in the studio, it is all down to coincidences what the soundscape will be like which is in strong contrast to the fact that our songs are already done when we enter the studio.
You chose to only release one song in the lead up which was Hate Cloak. Firstly, why the decision to only release one song? Bands usually release at least two?
I didn’t choose that, I am writing for the next album, after I get out of the studio my work is pretty much done, except for all the press stuff and interviews which comes months after the record has been recorded, I have riffs for another 2-3 album now too so the whole marketing strategy is not for me, Ted has stronger feelings for it but I think we had just one “single” for our previous albums as well, I don’t pay much attention to these things but I was under the impression that we would have one more track “freed” just before the album comes out, No biggie to me. Anyway when there is only 5 long songs, releasing to would be releasing 40% of the album.
Secondly, why choose this particular song? You have said it’s the slowest song on the album.
It became apparent already in the studio sessions that Hate Cloak was a good one for a single but it was not carved in stone. This new single thing is a bit new to us, before we always only had to deal with WHAT SONG WOULD BE FIRST ON THE ALBUM. And we had a regime about it, it was either one of Ted’s songs or my songs of course, only that it was every other time. and we’d count that as a very important song, like a single. So when the whole single-race started we knew we couldn’t have the first song on the album be the single as well. so it started to get complicated. I think I wanted Hate Cloak (one of my songs) to be first on the album, then we started to discuss a lot with Paul from Peaceville and since Ted’s songs WAKE OF THE AWAKENED and HIS MASTERS VOICE are KIND Of similar in structure/holds many of the same elements it was deemed typical for the album and hence one of those would be the opener on the album. That again strengthened the position as Hate Cloak as the single. 3 of the songs also has faster parts, mine doesn’t. I wouldn’t say hate cloak is atypical for the album at all. You’ll hear.
After recording all of your albums since 2004 at your own Necroshell II studio, you chose to record this album at Chaka Khan studio in Oslo. Why?
Back in 1988 after Ted joined the band we were struggling with rehearsal places, even had to rehearse in a church in Oslo but it was hot and we had to open windows and that made a racket so we got thrown out. It was then Zephyrous which came up with a solution, a bomb shelter under a row of garages (parking garages) at Tårnåsen, Kolbotn. We recorded our SNOWFALL track there which is very much the same structure as ETERNAL HAILS songs. and then we recorded our THULCANDRA demo there in early 1989. and rehearsed there until early 1990. In 2015 we returned to that same rehearsal place, garage days revisited and could have our equipment there and record Arctic Thunder there and Old Star there. and then in May 2019 we got the dEVASTATing news that it was deemed unfit for human activities by the people in charge. We were the only band there back in 1988 but now there were several. we had also lost a component of our Necrohell 2 studios which was at the same time becoming so obsolete that it was more like a hurdle for Ted to be dealing with and Old Star had to be recorded with only one overhead mic (no one noticed). So we were in dire straits. We had to find a suitable studio. I was at a party at Kolbotn and Kickan from Nekromantheon said they had just recorded in a studio in Oslo and so I asked for the number and sent it to Ted and Ted established friendly contact and vibes and PRESTO we were recording in Chaka Khan with tons of ancient equipment.
Was the experience any difference being in an actual studio with other people’s equipment?
We’ve done this many times before of course, half of our albums are done in various professional studios, half of them are self recordings on portable studios. It’s very very different, however, but this time we told Ole and Silje beforehand that we were used to record on our own as well so they knew our mental state about having others around and I also told them we all would pretend to be band members and have a super chill our vibe and not take things very seriously. I am really prepping a lot before recordings sending examples of sound details and soundscapes and also afterwards, but IN the studio I just get enormous amounts of energy and adrenalin of just having recorded our music! And leave it at that. However, it brought us to a situation where I could create harmonies for the guitars, there was little room for that on the albums we recorded ourselves. And Ted got inspired by old synths there and so we had about the same amount of add-ons as we once had on a blaze in the northern sky, meaning we felt ruddy well inspired!!
The band has said that you enjoy making songs that time to make their point. How difficult is it coming up with 8 minute plus songs and still keeping people’s attention when they listen to it?
If these songs would be short like THE DICKIES you’d probably notice that it would be wrong – in a wrong way. I am not worrying about attention span, and if you yourself worried about attention span you would have given me a heads up before this interview to have REALLY short answers. Kathaarian life code was over 10 minutes long so this is not an issue, we could have divvied up the riffs and having two riffs being one song and then we’d have a whole bundle but I don’t see how that would help. I really like the two first THE DICKIES album, though haha.
Do you think you could make music as impactful by shortening the song length?
I don’t know, it would be impossible to prove in a customer satisfaction setting. should we have a focus group before writing our songs? the songs came out a bit longer this time because they needed to. And I didn’t feel it was so cool to have only 3 riffs on one of my songs on the previous album, it felt like it was lacking something then (in hindsight!) so why not just double it? also, I like to let the riffs breathe a lot, playing them ENOUGH amount of times. Also, historically, I think I had more success with my longer songs, kathaarian life code, quintessence, leave no cross unturned, than a lot of the shorter songs. This is the 2nd interview that focus on attention spans and length of songs, I am starting to wonder if classical music is now being composed differently, like 12 songs on an album now? Hahahahaha aaaaanyway, I always had a thing for longer songs since I grew up, Pilgrim by Uriah Heep, then long black sabbath songs, maiden, at dawn they sleep by slayer, even, and Candlemass and Metallica‘s long songs and so on ��
Darkthrone formed in Norway back in 1986. What was the musical climate like that gave birth to the band?
Climate in Kolbotn was non-existent but we are the first tiny town south of Oslo so we could always go into Oslo’s well-stocked music stores from when we were kids and have access to a lot of metal albums and I had a job, two jobs, besides school back in 1985 and 1986 so I had a lot of money to buy albums for and 1986 was a golden year for me and some of the albums were simpler than others, I felt Celtic Frost was doable and very effective and at the same time highly original and I also felt that cryptic slaughter was so untight but still had a record deal so I thought IT IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE FOR ME TO START A BAND and so I did.
What was your early vision for Darkthrone and how has it changed since.
I was never talented enough to have a vision, I just had so many records and then I got into the global underground in very early 1987 and so I had tons of influences and I just ended up being a conveyor of all these influences JUST LIKE I AM NOW. Too many influences and when we decided to focus only on death metal as the tempos worked best for us then in mid/late 89 we got a record deal out of it. We quickly started to veer away from the only one style thing, our first album was pretty dark and spaced out death metal with doom elements and lyrically hailing poison from Germany and possessed already in the first song so it was always clear we weren’t gonna be a 100% this or that band.
What was it about death metal specifically that inspired you as a musician and person?
Depends what perspective folks have on death metal, if it’s the seconds from the Ace Ventura movie it’s not the same perspective I had, getting into possessed and massacre demos, death metal to me was the riffs in thrash songs that were picked with open strings and not chugged and the notes were half notes like that in horror movie soundtracks and at the same time thrash and death was so much a part of the same cauldron and poison from Germany also had doom parts and the odd heavy metal part which I thought already then in the spring of 1987 was a RETRO riff and when we did a blaze in the northern sky I was thinking it was a very RETRO album but you see, I didn’t know about the RETRO term at that time, just as EXTREME METAL was not a term at that time, nor was 2nd wave of black metal. nah, the styles weren’t separated much in the 80s compared to the 90s. in the 80s the interviews were a bit more about what different bands or recordings that had influenced the bands. like a little road map to explain the destination. what was making me more sick in the head was stopping the evolution and taking out my old albums again, destruction, Sodom, Bathory and then see them in a new and blacker light than ever before, also fuelled by alcohol I was in for a very different decade in the 90s than what I had been through in the 80s. in hindsight I prefer the 80s and definitely think about the 80s way more.
35 years is a long time in the music industry. How do you keep things fresh and exciting for not only your fans, but also yourselves?
Hah, so easy and I am so lucky: The feeling of receiving a riff and capturing it and then come up with following parts is EXACTLY the same feeling as back in the day but fortunately I have more experience than in 87 and 88 now. I don’t play a lot on my instruments so I don’t lose the immediacy of it and the nervousness. I had too high ambitions on drums for a while in the 90s and if you are a bit good but not perfect you tend to overthink your tightness and what not so I turned my back on that in the end of the 90s and started thinking alternatively on drumming. I saved myself doing that! I am not saying that others should listen to that drum story, just telling you what happened to ME. Anyway, I am as happy now, maybe happier, when I have completed a song and I feel like recording it instantly. And this is what I miss in life, the constant need to record something I just made INSTANTLY. I did a lot of that in 89-95. I am not sure if I should always be thinking about the fans, if it is fresh for them, as a lifelong metalwielder in Darkthrone. I should probably just continue by myself in my sandbox and come up with stuff mostly left to myself/on my own.
What are your plans for the rest of 2021 or is it still too early?
My calendar is empty, I wanted to continue recording in may for a new studio session but that was voted down, then we landed on new sessions in autumn but remember I get a LOT of energy when in the studio and I started getting tons of riffs in February 2019 so I am super stoked but there is Ted to consider and he can not be rushed, although he really likes Rush. As do I. But at this stage, I could seriously have a studio session twice a month.
Watch the trailer for Eternal Hails below: