The time has come. Norwegian black metal legends Darkthrone have unveiled their latest release Eternal Hails (our review here) and if you’ve been following the career of Fenriz, chances are you’ll be all over it like a black metal band in a forest. In celebration of the band’s new album, we grabbed the man in question for an insightful discussion about its conception, how things different with this one compared to previous recordings in the studio and Fenriz‘s revenge on Norway for making skateboarding illegal back in the 70s/80s… No, we’re serious!
Give it a read and dive into some dark Norwegian black metallllllll….
This release was conceived and produced against the background of a global pandemic and a world that seems to be more divided and closer to self-destruction than ever before, did this have an influence on the content of the album?
Yes AND NO; after Ted had opted for a more intense Darkthrone period ahead in late 2018, the riff gods suddenly starting pouring riffs into my head in February 2019. By summer I had the title ready, riffs for a couple of albums and I had most of the lyrics written, hoping to record in September that year. Ted, though, needed another year. By autumn 2019 I also had the cover idea permission and all the lyrics written. But Ted was adamant and so the project of Eternal Hails went into hibernation until we started writing/putting together riffs in Summer of 2020 instead.
You told your fans via Instagram late last year to expect the unexpected on this release, can you elaborate more surrounding that statement?
Well, yes, that must have been Ted who said that. Originally we were supposed to soldier on with the exact same style as Arctic Thunder and Old Star on this one but, and I am merely guessing here, since all the bands recording and rehearsing at the Tårnåsen (Kolbotn) bunker as it was unfit for human activities, we suddenly lost our entire base which was supposed to be our forever base. Instruments were parked in our respective homes and now we were like 30 years ago when we had to get a normal studio to record our stuff again after 17 years of recording on our own. And that ball didn’t start running until I found myself at a party at Kolbotn and Kickan from Nekromantheon told me about this studio where they had recorded their new album. So I asked for a number to a contact person and sent it to Ted. Then Ted talked with them on several occasions setting everything up for recording sessions starting November 2020, which meant the album, in my eyes became over a year postponed.
However, this situation seems to have jumbled us up a bit and the songs Ted sent were a tad unusual and especially LONGER more epic material with more riffs and I myself had already finished most of my material on my hand and they too were longer and more epic and when finally recording in the studio we realized it was like a new start for Darkthrone AND at the same time more or less returning to the structure of our Snowfall track from late 1988 and since the studio has pretty much only old equipment from the 60s and 70s and early 80s we got enthusiastic and it was easy for me to come up with some add-ons, guitar harmonies and furthermore a whole new idea for one of my doom metal endings for the final song of the album.
The soundscape too, is unusual and old.
Tell us about the artwork for Eternal Hails – it looks like it is reminiscent of something that might be on a doom or stoner metal album, why did you choose this particular work?
Easy peasy, 40 years ago I was visiting my cousins in Oslo and they had this amazing book about space and I was BLOWN APART by this painting!! Perhaps in 81 or 82 this was, and what feels like a whole lifetime later, in late 1987, I had had a band for a year and decided to give it a whole new go and changed the band name to Darkthrone. I had an internship placement at the cultural house in Ski via my school at the time, and in early 1988 I asked to lend the book from my cousin as the cultural house (Waldemarhøy) had a sweet copying machine and I started to copy images from the book for use in my Darkthrone snail mail correspondence with the global underground scene.
So that was when I first put it to use, however not in many copies, it didn’t really fit into correspondence easily. I never forgot the image, though, and for this album needing a cover, it seemed like it was finally worth asking Paul at Peaceville if he could get permission. AND HE DID! When that mail came flying in I was as HAPPY AS LARRY. Now, I never owned a stoner rock album so I don’t know what those covers look like, I always had LIVE EVIL by Black Sabbath in my life since it came out so there was some starlit sky on that one, but…and the trouble covers or Candlemass… Nah, can’t see any doom or trouble link, anyway that’s not important as I knew of this image since before I was 10 years old so THAT was the reason.
You chose not to record this in Necrohell II, which was the 8-Track recorder housed in an old bomb shelter studio that you’ve used for the past 15 years, before that you had Necrohell I, its 4 track predecessor. Instead you recorded this at Chaka Kahn Studios in Oslo, what was the reasoning behind this change, and why Chaka Khan Studios?
Yeah well, the Necrohell one was a porta studio the Valhall brothers bought in late 87 or early 88 and was put to use on the first, second and third Valhall demo at least. The intro for the ‘Snowfall’ song on the “A New Dimension” release of ours in late 1988 was recorded by Ronny Sorkness on Necrohell and then I started recording Isengard stuff on Necrohell in 1989 and then more Isengard, Neptune Towers, Fenriz’ Red Planet and finally recorded Transylvanian Hunger and Panzerfaust on it in 93 and 94 (alone, as Darkthrone).
That studio went to hell in circa 1998 when we recorded a one-off track called ‘God of Disturbance and Friction’ on it. I mean, it was broken by then, the studio had been in storage or whatnot since 1995 when I last recorded on it. The second Necrohell studio was also portable but way bigger and more modern FOR ITS TIME, bought by Ted in 2004 and we recorded at Kjellas place in Trysil area from 2005 until 2013. Then it was moved to the old reh place at tårnåsen, the atomic shelter, in 2015, this was also where we had rehearsed in 1988-1990 and also grew up around there and I still live in the area and we recorded Arctic Thunder and Old Star there and thought it was going to last forever but one of the studio components went missing and the technologic solutions got derelict. It was also too much work and nerve wrecking technical solutions for Ted to get exposed to so we were probably better off having to deal with a more normal studio after all those years.
How do you think recording this in a, for lack of a better word, a commercial studio has impacted the album and is this the end of Nekrohell?
Well, we are very HANDS OFF in the studio, we are just grateful for the help and not having to lug my drumkit there and back and also Ted gets help with amps so there is little transportation problems and we can focus just on recording our songs. However, being hands off and just trying not to get in the way of the two wizards and having a great relationship with them (we are opting for a long term relationship) means also that we let coincidences rule. So we have little control, just like on so many other occasions in a studio, and I only really ever had ample control when I did the Panzerfaust album in 94. On Transylvanian Hunger, I just got lucky that the guitars and bass went well together, a bit more control on Panzerfaust but on Panzerfaust I had to play the bass lines WHILE transferring the 4 tracks to a master tape so it was very touch and go and if someone saw this process from the outside they would probably just see mahemic destruction (reference!) and chaos. So you can say we are used to throwing caution to the wind and not fuzz too much about the soundscape we end up with.
I mean, from the first album we were forced financially to go to Sweden to record instead of the expensive studio in our hometown where we later recorded A Blaze in the Northern Sky and Under a Funeral Moon. So we aren’t new to accepting the unexpected, however the ‘Hate Cloak’ single is out and people seem to love the sound of it so it all went well. At least we do not sound anything like any processed plastic modern metal.
I saw a few weeks ago that there’s an Old Star skateboard deck that you guys have released, any chance we will be seeing either of you popping kickflips anytime soon?
I doubt if it was US GUYS that released the skateboard, being a band with a gargantuan career it leads to a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooot of questions from a lot of people wanting to do this and that and I don’t have a problem with skating, we already agreed to collaborate a bit with Pro Skater Kevin Baekkel. But I just skated for one month in my life, when I was in between jobs in September 1988. It was a shit board too, as skateboarding was illegal in Norway from 1977-1989, sorry 1978-1989 (had to control-google it) and I was waiting for an illegally imported board from the state which a Kolbotn dude set up but he had taken my money and claimed the board never showed up or something (I don’t remember but I was sore for months) so I just thought, this skateboarding business is really working against me and then I got a job and just forget about skateboarding.
We just signed a new skateboarding deal (it just enters the merch deal in our merch company or something, we don’t ACTUALLY have to sign a separate deal for all these requests) so consider this my revenge on skateboarding being illegal in Norway 78-89 and the money I lost when I got ripped off/or customs took my board situation back in 1988.
This is Darkthrone’s eighteenth album. After 30 years of regularly releasing music, how do you continue producing fresh material while staying true to your DNA?
Oi! We’re counting the Goatlord album and so does metal archives so not to split hairs but it’s number 19, man.
How? The riffs have been pouring in with soft ice-machine ease since February 2019 and since we have the background of 60s and 70s and 80s in making our style we have the coolest styles to back us up – but apart from that I am just soldiering on making metal. I don’t know or understand why others have been wimping out in the soundscape department so much or trying out other types of styles but the metal world has always been expanding and when they go off into some brave new world they leave more room for traditionalists like us, I guess everyone needs to do what they do in this realm and then we’ll see who stands when the smoke clears. Remember that fans of various styles often cannot understand AT ALL why someone else likes an opposing style and vice versa.
I’m intrigued, with the state of the world now, will you be doing any sort of live-streamed performance for the album that many other bands have been doing over the past two years?
Since we are famous for NOT playing live, I can assure you that attempts of getting us, of all bands, to do streaming specials have been beyond fruitless. Getting into Darkthrone is getting into a world of exclusiveness where the albums do the talking, we hope, hahaha! THE REALM OF THE ALBUMS! HEEEEYYYYYH!!
But yeah, we are setting up an intense tour of 3 months 5 days a week in Toowoomba!
Hahaha Thanks for the insights Fenriz!
Interview by Sean Fabre-Simmonds. Insta: @gravy_havock
Stream Eternal Hails here
1. His Master`s Voice [07:17]
2. Hate Cloak [09:16]
3. Wake of the Awakened [08:24]
4. Voyage to a North Pole Adrift [09:24]
5. Lost Arcane City of Uppakra [07:02]