After six years of silence one of the most important Swedish Black Metal bands, DARK FUNERAL, returns. With changes in its line-up, specially the split with the charismatic vocalist Emperor Magus Caligula, and with a more organic and atmospheric sound than in its previous recordings, “Where Shadows Forever Reign” is a good display of what Swedish Black Metal is and what have to offer.
Eternal rivals of MARDUK, and DISSECTION back in the day, the band continues being fidel to its beliefs and dark values, as Lord Ahriman, guitarist and songwriter, clearly explains in this interview. Speed and sharp sound, but also morbid and evil feelings, the soundtrack of Hell… DARK FUNERAL.
Lee la entrevista con Lord Ahriman de DARK FUNERAL en español.
First of all let’s talk about the six years period of silence since your last album, “Angelus Exuro pro Eternus”. It has been a lot of time without a new DARK FUNERAL cd. Did you ever imagine that you would release your next album, “Where Shadows Forever Reign”, after so much time? Did you need to do other things?
We were actually touring the world back and forth between 2009 and 2012. And right after the release of "Angelus Exuro pro Eternus” (September 2009) we toured with Emperor Magus Caligula up to his departure in mid 2010. And after that we toured with a German vocalist up till 2012. After that touring cycle, we did some additional European festivals and a few selected club-shows with Emperor Magus Caligula, who stepped shortly to help us out a few times between 2012 and 2014. Meanwhile, we were auditioning new vocalists, and naturally worked on the new record.
However, during this period some personal things happened. It drained me from energy and forced me to take a sort of "timeout" to sort my life. Once I had come out from this dark period, I was finally ready to resume working on the new record. And fortunately this period had given me not only a lot of new energy, but also a lot of new inspiration that I could turn into new music. There's a song on the new album entitled "As I Ascend", which both musically and lyrically are dedicated too, and deal with this dark period of time. Also the song and story of "Temple of Ahriman" came out from this period of utter darkness. So yeah, they are the most personal songs I've ever written actually. But anyhow, besides that "timeout", we've been fairly active at all time. Maybe not in the public eye, but surly behind the scene.
I never doubted that there would be a new album. I knew there were going to be one! It was just a matter of time. Since life were not optimal for me to write during a period, it took a bit longer than planned unfortunately. However for me the music I write is way too important, and really mean something profoundly for me. So when I compose music, it means that I have something important to say, and that I have something that I truly need to get out of my system. I can't, and refuse, to just throw some riffs together just for the sake of releasing an album. That is not me! That is not DARK FUNERAL!
The main difference now is that Emperor Magus Caligula isn’t the DARK FUNERAL vocalist anymore. Has it been the main cause for this six years of silence? How did you feel after his depart?
He wanted to settle down basically. And I have full respect for that. We had quite some amazing years together in the band. And also more memories than most people can gather in a whole lifetime, but life changes for some, and it's ok. Fortunately it also moves on, even if different directions. I'm still following my own dark vision. And as long as it's alive I have no plans to put DARK FUNERAL to rest for a long time to come!
During these years DARK FUNERAL has made shows between 2011 and 2012 with Nachtgarm from NEGATOR. I think that he was very static for the band, how do you feel about his work with DARK FUNERAL? Did you think he could be the new vocalist of the band?
Well, things just didn't work out between him and us, the rest of the band. There's really not much more to tell about that really.
How did you meet the new vocalist, Heljarmadr? Did you know his work (CURSED 13, GRA) before coming to the band?
The first time we met was for a different reason actually. It was after he applied with his band Grá to open our 20 years anniversary show which were held in Stockholm a few years ago. I decided to meet up with him to really find out if they would be the right band, with the right attitude and spirit to open such special show for us. Already at the first meeting I got a very good feeling for him as person and also for his band. So to make a long story short, they got the opening slot! A few weeks after the show, he got in touch again. This time to apply and offer his service as the new vocalist for DARK FUNERAL. Since we already had gotten a very good feeling on his personality and great professionalism, we invited him for an audition. And the rest is history...
Did you have the new CD, “Where Shadows Forever Reign”, composed before Heljarmadr came to the band? How did he adapt his voice to the music?
Some stuff were written, but it wasn't until he had grown into the band I/we finally got busy working on the new record. Already at the first audition he gave a very strong impression, both as a vocalist but foremost as a person. He had done his homework very well and came in with a good attitude and nailed the songs fluently. We decided to continue to rehearse together and then take it step by step and see where it would lead. And after a couple of month he had grown into the family and it was quite natural to take the next step and start working on new music together, thus he was a fulltime member of the band.
I’ve seen you live with Emperor Magus Caligula about three times, but in Resurrection Fest 2015, I could check how you play with Heljarmadr… and I think it was a cooler show. Would you say your shows are now better with your new singer?
Thanks! Yeah, I think we all have improved our stage presence during the last couple of years actually. And I feel we're just getting better and better by time. Heljarmadr is doing a fantastic work too. We're all working hard to improve everything at all time. So I'm absolutely sure we will be able to offer better & more impressive live shows from now on.
In which ways do you consider Heljarmadr improves Emperor Magus Caligula performance?
They are two different personas, and vocalists. And they do things their own way no doubt. But something I really like with Heljarmadr vocals, is that it's more aggressive. And he manage to articulate the words so well which makes it very easy to hear what he actually are singing. That's something I really wanted to improve with a new vocalist. And Heljarmadr nail it perfect!
Talking about the new album, “Where Shadows Forever Reign”, I think that your production is more organic and complete now, and the songs are more expansive. If I have to define with a word this album it would be: diversity. What do you think about it, about the differences between your new album and the rest?
Thanks! I can't more than agree with your description. You seem to have understood the music and the album very well. This is Blak Metal at its finest. And it offers songs for everyone who like extreme and/or melancholic metal!
I think that for the first time in DARK FUNERAL, each song has a different personality, with different tempos and structures. Do you think that it could be a consequence of the six years passed between your new and your last album? How did you work in the music of the new album? Did you change anything in your way to work?
Of course! Six years apart and later, I'm obviously at a different place in life than I were in 2009. During these six years I have been through a lots of things, both good & bad, which naturally reflects in the music I write. With that being said. I have my own home studio where I demo new songs. I'll write & arrange both the lead & rythm guitars, and I also program the drums, which on the final stages obviously are improved and nailed for real by Dominator. What's new this time is that, for the first time since Vobiscum Satanas (©1998), we actually had a full pre-production ready before we entered the studio. Also, for the first time since our self-titled debut MCD (©1994), I was involved in some of the lyric-writings. I was also actively working together with Heljarmadr on the vocal arrangement, which Im actually found very inspiring. While I was doing Guitars and basic drum programming in my home studio, Heljarmadr was working on lyrics and recording vocals in his home studio. And then I/we put it all together in my home studio. This made it possible for us to really fine-tune everything on this album, which I'm sure meant a lot for the final result. This time I also went more on "the feel", than perhaps trying to challenge myself playing as fast and/or as technical as possible. And with the final result in my hand, I must say it proved to be a very successful way of working after all.
Besides this, in this album you can find a lot of slower tempos where the epic side has a bigger presence. Do you think that it would be a problem for the people who is searching only for a blasting fast Black Metal album?
Not at all! Even if the new album is our most diverse and dynamic album to date. I still offers a lot of fast & intense songs, with lightening fast riffing and blast beats. Although, this time we offer more! And I'm absolutely sure that those who normally prefer our fastest and most extreme songs, will actually enjoy the diversity of this album even more. I'm also sure it will attract a wider audience, as it offers something for everyone who likes aggressive, epic and/or melancholic songs in slower or mid-tempo pace. This album offers it all!
DISSECTION was more Death Metal oriented, NAGLFAR was more underground… Since the nineties MARDUK and DARK FUNERAL have been the best example of the Swedish Black Metal. Do you have a good relationship with them? Is there any rivalry between you both?
... And there's only one DARK FUNERAL! No, why would it be any rivalry between the two of us? We're not in regular contact, but I talk with them occasionally. Sometimes we play the same festivals. And when we do, we meet and talk of course. In the 90's I we used to call DARK FUNERAL, Marduk & Dissection for "the black trinity of Sweden". And even if Dissection isn't amongst us anymore, I still feel that tag is pretty accurate even to this day. The three of us was part of starting something very special. And that is a bond that cannot be forgotten or broken.
Where would you state your band in the Swedish musical history?
That's not really up to me to say, but we were apparently part of forming the Swedish Black Metal scene. But what more important I think, is that whatever trend there's been within the Black Metal scene, we have always been doing our own thing. That was one of the reason we started the band originally. To walk our own dark path, and create darker and more extreme music than everyone else. And that vision and intention are still intact and very much alive! Anyway, hopefully we've burned in some kind of marks in the Swedish musical history, but as said. That's not up to me to state how and if, how and what.
Some people would say that Black Metal is old-fashioned today. Corpsepainting, sound and lyrical topics… are in big terms the same that 20 years ago. Do you agree? What does the black metal give to the audience today?
For me Black Metal is still as important as it's always been. It is my life! And as far as topic goes. There are reasons why there are different music genres. One being that, beside musically, each music genre deal with different lyrical themes. So to say that Black Metal doesn't offer any new themes is just a huge lack of knowledge and actually quite stupid. As for DARK FUNERAL, and especially on the new album, we have manage to combine the more anti-religious and spiritual side of Black Metal with a more personal input. It gives the songs both a deeper and more powerful impression I think.
Do you have plans for a extensive tour with the new vocalist apart from Fests? Do you miss the touring?
Sure. We will begin playing festivals around Europe this summer. And as it looks now, we'll start touring for real in support to the new album in October. And obviously we hope to be invited to play as many countries as possible once the new album is out. I can't wait to start playing live again!
A curiosity: I’ve seen a twitter image where Justin Bieber confessed to be a DARK FUNERAL fan and you invited him to a show as a sacrifice… I think that it would be a good reclaim for your shows, don’t you?
Well, you said it yourself...
Thanks a lot for your answers. This space is yours!
Thanks for the interest and support, much appreciated!. Make sure to check out our new album "Where Shadows Forever Reign" once released through Century Media/Sony on June 3th. New merchandise is available through our webstore www.diaboliswear.com. And last but not least. Hope you'll enjoy our new album. And I hope to see you soon on the road. Hail Metal. Hail Satan!
Interview by Raúl Ureña & Laura Ruiz