Apart from moving to Kolbotn and forming a thrash metal band, are there any other mandatory requirements to apply for membership in Kolbotn thrashers union? What should one do in order to increase chances to be invited to join?
K: First of all, you need to listen to a wide range of music, and not only thrash or metal. It may help to respect nature and generally be a friendly and laid back person. But as far as I know, no one has ever been invited to the KTU. If you really wanna be in, what you need is the audacity to simply claim membership, at least that’s what we did. I think it was Necrodevil from Infernö who came up with the concept a long time ago, and RKV from Obliteration who made the logo, by putting a slightly different take on the Kolbotn sports team logo.
Are the songs on Visions Of Trismegistos inspired and tied by some particular narrative, or is the album a collection of thematically independent songs that have the same amount of features that keep them both separate and inseparable at the same time?
K: We didn’t set out to write a concept album, but there are more elements connecting the songs than on our previous releases. We wanted to paint a darker, more mystical landscape, and all the songs are oriented around this with regards to riffs, composition, and production. As usual with Nekromantheon, the lyrics are based on Greek and Roman mythology and culture, but this time the main lyrical topic is the mysteries of the mind.
Would it be fair to say that Greek and Roman mythology represent the band’s most fundamental artistic credo, the underlying theme that encapsulates the very essence of Nekromantheon lyrically, spiritually, and aesthetically?
K: Our name comes from an ancient Greek temple where people came to seek the wisdom of the dead, and that’s basically what we’re after as well. We want to summon the spirits of the old gods, be it Hephaistos, Hermes Trismegistos, or Hanneman.
With regard to the verse qualis artifex pereo from the song Faustian Rites, when it comes to movies, music, literature, and art in general, do you prefer albums, books, and movies that communicate a certain feeling to those whose value doesn’t really exist outside of the entirety of their narrative or concept? For example, if a book is well written, meaning that you can open it at a random page and get immediately absorbed by its atmosphere and the author’s captivating writing style, would you rather read that book or the one that will reward your patience only at the very end, by providing a certain insight or communicating a certain message?
K: I would probably want to read both books, but leave it up to my mood to decide which to read when. I don’t mind reading a dry and technical text if the message is interesting. A lot of great philosophical works can be painstaking to read, but reward you at the end. As for music, movies, and art, the most important thing is the atmosphere and feeling. I don’t care if the lyrics build up to a brilliant point at the end if the song itself is boring. I get instantly turned off to music if the production is annoying, thus messing up the atmosphere.
When you read, watch, or listen, do you prefer content that provides gratifying reverie, or the one that causes a headache by pushing you into deep contemplation?
K: I love the stuff that makes my brain twist and turn in unusual ways, but there has to be some kind of gratification to it as well. Preferably in an unaccessible way ˗ if you get instant gratification from something, you’re usually gonna grow tired of it real fast. Delayed gratification leads to longevity and deeper appreciation. Even though I still don’t have a clue what Inland Empire is really about, the creepy atmosphere makes me wanna watch it over and over again. My favourite filmmakers are David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowski, and Stanley Kubrick ˗ those guys can make a point worth waiting for, while every frame on the way is a work of art in itself.
Was a decade long silence between this album and the previous one a result of life getting more difficult, complicated, demanding, and time-consuming, or were you just heavily burnt out after Rise, Vulcan Spectre? Was your creativity massively hindered by the neccessity of aimlessly rolling on the hamster wheel of everyday life?
K: We weren’t really in a hurry to make a new album, as we all had plenty of other things to occupy us. Aside from the hamster wheel, we’ve all been writing, rehearsing, recording, and playing live with other projects. Sindre and Arild with Djevel and Black Viper respectively, plus Obliteration of course, and me with Deathhammer, Audiopain, and Flight. Most of the time allocated for Nekromantheon after Rise, Vulcan Spectre was spent playing live or rehearsing for shows, and we only occasionally sat down to write new material. It takes some time to get the ball rolling every time there’s a break in the writing process, so I guess that’s part of the reason for the long wait.
Pretty much every outstanding, historically significant rock power trio, bands like Motörhead or Rush for example, became famous precisely for not sounding like a three but at least a four-piece. Given that your lush sound resonates similarly, what about the urgency with which you perform compensates for a missing band member? Is it the similar level of technical proficiency, strong personal chemistry, both of those, or neither?
K: There’s definitely strong chemistry between us, as we’ve been very close since we were kids, including the Obliteration guys. We learned to play our instruments together, and developed our taste for metal together. Nekromantheon actually started out as a four-piece, with Glenn Biffen Iversen on vocals, but we kicked him out shortly after our first EP was released because we felt he wasn’t really committed to the band. Nowadays we have an extra guitarist with us for live shows, but we don’t feel a need to include any more people in the writing process ˗ three’s already a bunch.
Speaking of those formative years, back then you probably wanted to be in a band simply because you thought that was the coolest thing in the world. Presuming that, as years go by, one needs more meaningful reason and profound motivation to push through all the struggles and hardships that being in a band entails, what is the thing that keeps you going these days?
K: We find that writing and playing music together is the reward in itself. Whether we’ve made a cool song, nailed a live show, or produced a new album, the feeling of accomplishment is deeply gratifying. What really keeps us going is our love for thrash metal ˗ we want to make the music we wish somebody else would make so we could listen to it, if that makes sense.
Would you say that the way you feel about music these days, and the way you experience it, is significantly different compared to when you were just starting out? Does Nekromantheon still consume your entire inner world, or has it become more of a therapy over the years, a means to temporarily escape the burden of reality?
K: We’re maybe a bit more seasoned than when we started out, but not much has changed. Making music is still our passion, and we all spend our days with ideas for riffs, arrangements, or lyrics constantly churning in our minds. I think any such consuming activity will function as some form of escape, but we don’t think of it as therapy. It’s hard to worry about tax returns or chores when thrashing hard with your mates.
Do you think that metal in general is a thinking man’s music or something that’s deeply rooted in the primal and intuitive?
K: It’s definitely rooted in the primal and intuitive. It’s not something to think about, it’s a feeling that hits you in the guts. Metal is all about energy and attitude. But there’s a lot of great metal musicians who are also brilliant thinkers, that’s for sure. The framework of metal music allows for deeper and more obscure lyrics than most other genres, which may be attractive to some intellectuals.
Should metal be just another form of entertainment then, or a serious, disciplined, subversive form of art, unapologetic and serious at all times? Is the desire to have fun without any deeper purpose behind it a legitimate cause to be in a band?
K: Absolutely! I think that’s a much more appropriate cause than the desire for fame or money. I don’t want to be the art police, and I’m not sure where to draw the line between art and entertainment. But what I can say is that we prefer thrash metal that doesn’t sway too far from the framework of the classic ’80s aesthetics. You don’t need to be dead serious about your band, but you have to show that you’re devoted to the genre if you want to be taken seriously.
When it comes to the basic physical needs and the way you feel about material things, are you more prone to overindulge and surrender to unrestrained hedonism or to practice asceticism and self-discipline? Do you more often find yourself living your life and going about your business by deteriorating into excess or by exercising abstinence?
K: We pretty much cover the whole spectrum. One of us is obsessed with fine dining, quality wine, and expensive HiFi-equipment. Another is more of a quasi-stoic with secret dreams of absconding to a cave in the Himalayas. The third one is dancing on the golden edge in between the two extremes, maintaining a balance in the group as a whole.
Do you live your life according to any kind of philosophy or religion? Are there any values or lifestyle choices that the band stands for and is strongly emotionally invested in?
K: Despite the overuse of religion and mythology in our lyrics, we’re all highly secular. We oppose religious dogmas and public stupidity. We care about wild nature, and value openness, tolerance, and critical thinking. We think the major religions are based on a mystical experience that has been misinterpreted and distorted throughout the ages, and can be fully explained in neuroscientific terms. As for philosophy, my interests are mainly metaphysical and have little practical influence on my everyday life. I’m currently inclined towards hard determinism, panpsychism, and Integrated Information Theory, but my views are viable to change with more information. I’m not sure the other guys care too much about that kind of stuff.
Are you a moody person and is there a correlation between the way you feel and the music you make?
K: That reminds me, I’m also a fan of Derek Parfit’s view on personal identity over time. Am I a person at all? Philosophy aside, I guess we’re all moody to some extent. We can only hope there’s a guitar nearby when we’re in a creative mood, and try to harness our anger and get in an aggressive mood when playing live.
Nekromantheon crossed the distance from promising newcomers to one of the most reliable contemporary thrash metal acts with only three albums, released over the span of more than ten years. When you look back at that rather long journey, do you feel content with your body of work, both quantity and quality-wise, or do you feel that the band could have done more?
K: Of course we could have done better and more if you rearranged the relevant aspects of the past accordingly. Given the state of things, I don’t think things could have gone any differently. There will always be something we could have done better, but we are content with the work we have done so far.
If Nekromantheon disbanded today, would you be content with the fact that your legacy would come down to those three albums, or do you think that the band is just hitting its stride right now, and that the best is yet to come?
K: We definitely feel like the best is yet to come, but I guess everybody feels that way about their own stuff. That’s probably why so many bands fail to disband at the right time, and instead drag their once glorious name through the mud with a series of increasingly depressing releases. Our biggest fear is to lose touch with our ideals and become one of those boring bands without even noticing it.
Would you subscribe to the notion that your take on thrash is essentially a compromise between the dark and primitive feel of early Norwegian black metal and the speed and urgency of early Teutonic thrash?
K: Those elements are a major influence on our music, absolutely. We’re hoping to capture the aggression of the mid eighties, when the line between thrash and death metal was blurry, and combine it with the cold and dark atmosphere of Norwegian black metal. It’s a bit weird that no one seems to mention the death metal aspects of our music, which we feel is very prominent.
Considering that Nekromantheon and Obliteration are pretty much the same people manifesting their anger and frustration in a slightly different manner, and that both bands are the cream of the crop of contemporary death and thrash metal, how difficult is to provide enough quality ideas to keep them both alive and capable of living to the standards they set upon themselves, by themselves?
S: For me, the dynamics within the bands are very, very different. The different atmosphere and different flow, so I view them as very separate entities. So for me it’s just as challenging as having one band, I would think. It’s hard to answer properly here, it’s hard to make good music regardless.
Have you ever written a riff and felt unsure whether you should use it for Nekromantheon or Obliteration song?
S: Well, I’ve made a few riffs that actually winded up in Obliteration, when it was initially thought for Nekromantheon. But usually I think the vibe is quite different for the bands and it’s not something that happens often. But two of the riffs in Eldritch Summoning were intended for Nekromantheon at first.
Back when Hades Rise came out, Fenriz said he thought that was the best album he had heard in years. Do you share that sentiment?
K: A fantastic album, indeed. The drum sound is particularly great. Aura Noir is one of the few bands you can count on to deliver top quality stuff every single time, but Hades Rise is still one of my favourites.
When you first got in touch with Norwegian black metal, do you remember which bands and albums made the strongest impression on you and how important role that movement had in your life?
K: I spent a lot of time in the woods with A Blaze In The Northern Sky and De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas on minidisc. Those night-time hikes had a major impact on me in my formative years, and I remember feeling a strong pull towards the eerie, misanthropic vibe of it all.
From the merely psychological standpoint, it’s very interesting that underground metal enthusiasts are in most cases insanely passionate and dedicated people whose identities are predominantly determined by their musical taste. There are hardly any other musical genres that consume and encompass their audience so thoroughly and extremely. Have you ever wrapped your head around the question why is that so?
K: I’ve made the same observation. Though I’m no psychologist, I’m guessing it has to do with the feeling of belonging to a community of like-minded individuals who are able to understand and appreciate something that others can’t even begin to comprehend. I think it’s similar in many other narrow subcultures.
There is a degree of physicality to thrash metal that manifests itself on both the giving and receiving end. It’s not easy to perform, just as it isn’t easy to stand still while witnessing the performance. Do you like that particular quality of your music and do you feel that extreme metal, generally speaking, is a young man’s game?
K: Extreme metal is not supposed to be easy. I remember watching some technical death metal band once, and I found myself standing next to Dave Grave from Repulsion, who was incidentally working in Oslo to fix some milk carton machines for Norway’s biggest dairy company. I’ve always loved his brutal playing, so I asked him what he thought of this technical drummer’s blast beat technique. He made a grim face and said it’s not metal if you don’t sweat. Those words have stuck with me, and I try to make sure anyone listening can hear my sweat dripping. There certainly is something about that teenage fuck off attitude that suits metal very well, and the energy level in the extreme metal can easily be too much to handle for old geezers. But it also takes time to explore the vast caverns of the metal underground, and that’s where age may be an advantage.
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