Nocturno Culto – Darkthrone ‘We Saw A Future With Longer Lines And A Different Ride All Together’
One of the biggest dice-rolls in the history of extreme metal, Darkthrone‘s musical divergence from the death metal of their respected 1991 debut Soulside Journey to frost-bitten, pure black metal less than a year later was a hefty gamble to say the least. While to outsiders it may have appeared that the band had turned on a dime and flippantly changed their musical path – in reality, Darkthrone had worked hard on crafting a similar-styled follow up to Soulside Journey – and our focus of today – Goatlord. However, as we find out below, Goatlord never made it beyond the rehearsal stages for a variety of reasons, and a mere three years after it’s shelving, the band had well and truly moved away from that style, having quickly amassed a triumvirate of certified black metal classics.
With such a vital stepping stone in both the career of Darkthrone and the black metal scene’s history about to receive it’s definite reissue, Wall of Sound had the pleasure to chat with Darkthrone founding member Ted ‘Nocturno Culto’ Skjellum about the freshly released Goatlord: Original, as well as the state of the band at the time, their creative process and the previous attempts of re-releasing the album.
How was band morale in Darkthrone following the release of Soulside Journey? Is it an album and time that you look back on positively?
Band morale was great. We had already started on Goatlord when we were in Stockholm to record our debut. It’s all good memories, and very hard work. We practically lived in the rehearsal space. To sew Goatlord together, and to perform it properly was a huge task, and back then we were like 18 years old and ready to show off our skills. But Darkthrone was everything for all of us back then, so morale was top notch.
How far through the creative process of Goatlord did you (and the band) start thinking that Darkthrone’s sound should go into the black metal direction?
That was after the recording of the rehearsal. We were preparing for studio and rehearsed a lot. I think Ivar (Enger, guitar) and myself felt we had been cornering ourselves with the technical stuff, and the music we played was pretty far from what we were listening to normally. So we saw a future with longer lines and a different ride all together. You know, it’s all coincidences basically. When you’re young, you just do things that pop into your head, without much thinking.
Were there many people around the band questioning Darkthrone’s decision to move away from death metal?
No, just within the band. Dag (Nilsen) was a great bass player, and it was no wonder he rejected our new path, it’s understandable. But Peaceville’s reaction when they got the master tapes for A Blaze In The Northern Sky is something that has been told numerous times before, and their reaction was also understandable, considering how hot Death Metal was at the time. I think they considered Entombed as a rival in this new era of Death Metal, but we certainly did not think that. There are so many factors to consider when thinking about that time, everything worked very differently than they do today, and we were all very young.
What music were you listening to during this time period? How much did it influence the songwriting process like for Goatlord?
We listen to all kinds of music, but Darkthrone, and any other band, lives its own life, and since we were young, we all wanted to get better at our instruments. So for what inspired Goatlord, well there is many things, I know that the Nocturnus demo and first album was one of them, alongside with Autopsy, Bathory, Motorhead, Yes, Rush, Voivod, Pestilence, Possessed and many many more.
How was the demo tape originally recorded? Do you remember what gear and equipment you and the band were using at the time?
I brought a portable cassette player that could also record, and the real gold here was that it had stereo microphones. After finding out where to place the recorder for [the] best sound, we started recording. I can’t really remember if we recorded Goatlord in one or two nights, but it was intense. We had rehearsed and made the album for a long time and was on top it. Equipment was Marshall stacks, and old drums. One of the bass drums has been with us for over 30 years now, been on every record besides Soulside Journey and Astral Fortress.
With just over a year between the releases of Soulside Journey and A Blaze In The Northern Sky, did any material from Goatlord become repurposed for A Blaze…?
Yes, it’s easy to forget that A Blaze is a crossover album. So some riffs were rewritten a bit to slide into A Blaze. We chose the parts that would fit the best of course. We were absolutely on fire when starting the process with A Blaze… So much in fact, that A Blaze was initially going to be a mini album. After some thought, we shot down that idea, we wanted to go all in for something truly to remember.
What was the mindset of yourself and Fenriz following the initial departure of Dag Nilsen and eventual parting of Zephyrous? Did you ever consider splitting up the group, or did it strengthen your bond?
We most definitely strengthened our bonds. This was the start of a whole new journey for us, being in complete control. Around 2005, Zephyrous was about to join the band again, but sadly he got injured in his hand and could not play the guitar.
The decision to release Goatlord with vocals in 1996 seems to be divisive amongst extreme metal fans – what are your thoughts on this vocal-led version of the album?
Eh, well, I think the new release will be the ultimate version. I remember we were a bit confused on how the vocal should be arranged when we made this album. Even with proper planning, this would not be an easy task. This album was almost meant to be instrumental. The (2011) re-issue was basically the same as the first release. I know this can be a bit much, three releases with three different covers, remaster etc. But still, this new release is at least for me, the ultimate version.
Goatlord: Original is transferred from Fenriz’ original tape source – what condition was this tape in? Was there any remixing or cleaning up during the transferring process?
I don’t know much about that process, but the guy that mastered it for this release has certainly altered the sound a bit, but this is very close to how it was. The guitars might have, originally, been a bit higher in the mix.
The new artwork for the LP is amazing, and a bit different than previous Darkthrone releases. How did you and Zbigniew Bielak come to work together? Did yourself and Fenriz have any creative input?
We did not have any creative input on this, other than we gave it thumbs up. It’s truly a stunning piece of art. Zbigniew and I are keeping in touch now, he is fantastic.
Does listening and revisiting this era of the band (and your life) fill you with much nostalgia? Does it put into perspective how much Darkthrone has achieved in the three decades since it’s release?
We are a band that does not look back. But lately, after realizing that 35 years has passed for me in the band, I feel…something hehe. But we always look forward. The fact that we don’t waste time on live shows, enables us to be creative and make albums. Albums last forever. One day, when Darkthrone ends, I will have time for nostalgia for sure.
What are you hoping that fans will get out of this new reissue?
This is a piece of us, for those interested. Huge amount of work was put into this, and this release is the most honest of them all. This was a true Darkthrone rehearsal. I remember back in 96-97 I did a interview with a German journalist, and he asked me one of the funniest questions ever on Goatlord. He was suggesting that the Goatlord release was basically a money grab for us, and I think I politely asked him if he had heard it, cause this will in no way be a huge thing, this will be for those who are especially interested, and we don’t make much money out of it.
Written by Andrew Kapper
Order Goatlord: Original here
Darkthrone – Goatlord: Original tracklisting
10. A Blaze In The Northern Sky
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