After more than a decade long hiatus, as men in their early 40s, what precisely fueled your urge to continue where you left off, reform the band, and record what could easily be the best Mörk Gryning album yet? Was it ambition, frustration, boredom, or merely a deep affection for this kind of music?
Awathar: A bit of all of those I guess. Or none of them actually. A deep affection for music has always been there for all of us, be it for this kind of music or not. To me, music is magic really, and will always be I think, which is a bit of a blessing and also a bit of a curse. But, regarding the kind of music that attracts me at any given moment, that differs quite much. However, it always has to have that thing that makes it magical, be it black metal, electronic music, or Japanese folklore. I guess all music is magical, but just not to the same people. Frustration, ambition, and boredom are natural parts of everyday life so they were all doing their part, but what really made the difference this time was that we felt we had both the time and the inspiration to make music that would be worth the effort of producing a record.
Hinsides Vrede doesn’t seem to look for inspiration in the previous, eponymous 2005 effort, but apparently reaches even deeper into the past, all the way to the Tusen År Har Gått and Return Fire days. In that regard, one might see it as the band’s attempt to rewrite history, to devalue Maelstrom Chaos and everything that happened after Return Fire, and start off yet again with a clean slate. Is there any degree of sanity to this reasoning?
Awathar: On a theoretical level, I might think there could be at least a hint of sanity in it, but that’s not something that was planned at all. In fact, no Mörk Gryning album has ever had any plan whatsoever, other than being a creation of what we felt was right at that moment. To me, Hinsides Vrede is a mix of all the others, I hear things from all the earlier albums in every song. What I think really came along this time was the production which I feel was just as important as the music. You may call it the invisible member of any band. The production can really torpedo any record into the depths of pointlessness, but also be the gift from the ancient gods to the songs. For us, it all turned out pretty dope this time.
Would it be accurate to translate Hinsides Vrede as beyond peace in English?
Awathar: No, it means wrath from a world beyond, which sums up the album quite well. The utter wrath from a place not touchable by human hands.
Is the image on the front cover of the album a visual rendition of the album’s narrative or merely a game of shapes with a significant aesthetic appeal, but no deeper meaning? That said, does Hinsides Vrede even have some distinct narrative that connects all the songs?
Awathar: It has, but we have chosen not to reveal it as directly as on some of the other albums. The cover art is done by our drummer CG and it matches the narrative and music pretty fine I think.
With this many effortlessly memorable songs, the band has probably never sounded more ear-friendly than on Hinsides Vrede. That solo in Infernal for example, or the opening riff and the chorus in A Glimpse Of The Sky, or those female vocal lines in Black Spirit, they all sound almost too accessible. Still, the album never crosses that delicate line where the music would lose a mandatory degree of credibility every extreme metal album should maintain at all times. Did you have a hard time walking that thin line without ever ending on the wrong side of it?
Awathar: To me, that thin line is making music. There are no rules in music and nothing has yet convinced me that the presence or absence of any given component in music necessarily makes the music turn out a specific way. There’s a lot of black metal music that stimulates me, yet there are still loads and loads of black metal that I don’t care about, dislike, or even hate. I do enjoy some electronic music, but music being electronic is not the slightest guarantee that it’s any good. Nothing is any guarantee of anything in music, it’s all that thin line all the time. There’s music that on paper should be good, but in reality it’s shit, and there’s music that I should hate that I actually enjoy. Creating, playing, and producing music is the insanity of making small creative choices all the time, maybe thousand small choices per minute or something. It’s all about doing it the way your heart tells you to, and when I dig something, I guess it’s because I think the guy who created it took the most of those right choices, regardless of the style of music he displayed those choices trough. If you find me arguing how it’s really important that the next record turns out really credible in this or that way, in order to please someone else, please shoot me on site. Nothing in our camp is ever for anyone else and all we want to do is to create stuff we think is dope shit at the moment, and that’s all there is. Music is magic and creating music is creating, or at least trying to create, magic. It’s not up to us to decide if we are successful in this or not, but we enjoy trying our hardest.
One could argue that Hinsides or For Those Departed could have turned into actual songs had you decided to develop those short instrumental intermezzos even further. Did you at least consider that possibility at some point during the writing process?
Awathar: They started out as melody structures and we found it to be the best thing for these structures to be turned into instrumental songs instead of songs with vocals.
All Mörk Gryning albums are conspicuously different from each other. The debut was about melody and atmosphere. Return Fire was darker and rawer, almost as mean as the look in those two eyes at its front cover. Maelstrom Chaos was more experimental and more calculated. Pieces Of Primal Expressionism was controversial, more than anything. And the fifth, eponymous one was the furious, merciless riff fest. Do you find these short observations to be valid and would you disagree with any of them? Could you describe Hinsides Vrede in a similar way, with only a few key words?
Awathar: Short or long observations are always in the eye of the observer. The records turned out the way they did because we wanted them to, mixed with coincidence, luck, bad luck, finances, and logistics. I think the latest one has a nice vibe, but I also enjoy the other ones for being, as you say, a bit different from each other. I love the songs on the fifth one, but I have a hard time with the production, while the production on Pieces Of Primal Expressionism is insanely great and the album has some great parts, but it’s also very dynamic and fragmented. But that’s what we wanted at the time. For us, all our albums are what they are and it’s really not up to us to review them, but they are at least not filled with anything else than honesty from our end, and that’s basically the only important thing.
Speaking of Pieces Of Primal Expressionism, not sure if sales figures back that notion up, but fans generally consider that album the weakest link in the Mörk Gryning discography. Do you remember, after Maelstrom Chaos had come out, what precisely you wanted to change about the band’s sound and what route you wanted to take with Pieces Of Primal Expressionism, even before you started writing it? When you look back, are you still satisfied with that album and would you say that it manifested into existence all the musical ambitions you had at that particular moment in time?
Awathar: I think Pieces Of Primal Expressionism is maybe the strongest Mörk Gryning album of them all. The production is fucking insane and some melodies and structures are among the best stuff I’ve heard in metal music ever. Sure, it’s not an album filled with three-minute hit songs, but who cares. The drumming and the vocals are insane as well. Anyway, I’m not sure what precisely was the plan for that record, from what I remember it started with let’s do the most insane record that has ever been made. Then again, that’s how all the Mörk Gryning records started, from what I know. I think I dropped out of the band just before the recording, but from what I remember that was the first time we had a decent budget which you obviously can hear as well. Anyhow, I don’t think we wanted to change anything really, just make a killer album.
One could argue that having an underground extreme metal band is a young man’s endeavor. As a 40 year old man myself, I can attest that being only a metal fan becomes increasingly difficult with age, due to all the obligations and responsibilities that come with it, let alone a metal musician. Would you subscribe to this notion and do you find it difficult not letting the music interfere with your everyday life?
Awathar: With all due respect I think it’s the easiest thing ever because to me it does not come with any obligations or responsibilities at all, except from trying your hardest to create the best musixc ever made. But I guess me and the rest of the band are not the most metal guys around, so maybe we’re the wrong people to ask. To me, it’s really just doing what I want to do and tell people that don’t like it to fuck off, and that’s not really that hard to me. If metal people have a hard time with me because I dig some techno, rap, drum & bass, or whatever, well they can all suck it. If non-metal people have a hard time with me being in a black metal band, the same goes for them. To me, it’s all about staying true to yourself and there’s nothing more embarrassing than people trying so hard to fit into whatever group of morons they want to fit into, so they dress up and behave a certain way.
Presuming that music was the most important thing in your lives during the band’s earliest years, do you remember how old were you when reality finally started to take over and your priorities started shifting towards your lives outside of music? Looking back, would you say that the band’s music suffered from that transition from youth to adulthood?
Awathar: Well, I think in one way the band suffered from it since we put it on ice, but it was also a decision we consciously made since we knew we did not have the time to make it as good as we always thought it should be. So in reality the band did not suffer from it, but rather gained from it. Great music always wins in the end and that’s how things turned out this time as well.
Considering that you were officially disbanded for well over a decade, how often during that period did you question your decision to quit the band, before finally getting back together in 2016? Did you miss Mörk Gryning while it was dead?
Awathar: Never really. I’m not sure if disbanded is the right word, but for me, I just saw it as a plus because we were busy with other shit and it was better to wait until the music needed to get out again. But then again, I’m not really a nostalgia type of guy at all. So, to answer your question, I did not miss it since for me it was not dead.
If what can be read on Encyclopaedia Metallum website is correct, Goth Gorgon dissolved the band in early 2005, due to a lack of interest in extreme metal. How and why that happened, and how that lack of interest manifested itself? Did you all start loathing extreme metal or did you just become indifferent? Or was that phrase just another, more polite way of saying that you were actually burnt out?
Awathar: That website seems to be a bit of a big thing because everybody is quoting that same line, but I’ve never seen the website myself. But yes, he and all of us lost interest in extreme metal, and we all do all the time, but extreme metal in itself is not the flame that keeps Mörk Gryning burning, it’s the music. At that time we did not have the time or inspiration to create a good record, so we stopped ourselves from trying. Which was great. There’s no bigger betrayal than releasing shitty music and knowing it.
On the same note, how hard was it to rekindle that long extinguished flame in 2016? Was it a matter of principle, something you wanted to do just because you felt it was the right time for a new album, or a spontaneous, unforced process of falling in love with this music again?
Awathar: It was not hard in any way, it was more a matter of circumstances. We were all living on the same side of the earth and we had the time to do a recording session. Time is, and has always been, the biggest enemy of Mörk Gryning I think, but this time we for once got it as our ally.
As we evolve and expand our horizons, should new experiences and insights about life squeeze out all the affinities, tastes, and values that previously existed within us? Can we become something more without ceasing to be what we already are?
Awathar: No, I don’t think they should. Our existence is obviously a mix of the past, the present, and the future, a mix of what we’ve been through, what we’re going through now, and our plans, thoughts, and expectations about the future. I think that will always be the case, whether we like it or not. To become something more demands a lot of what you already are, otherwise it sounds a bit fake to me. To cease being something and start being something else sounds a bit weird to me, but hey, it’s up to everyone to mind their own miserable lives, isn’t it?
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