(Andy Synn continues our new regular Saturday series in which he discusses metal lyrics with bands whose music you should also get to know if you don’t already.)
For the second edition of “Waxing Lyrical” (and with a quick aside to say thank you to everyone who said kind things about the inaugural column last weekend) I’m speaking to Johnar Håland from Norwegian Prog-Metal sensations In Vain, whose new album was released at the end of January.
I have to say that I first and foremost look upon myself as a composer and not a lyricist. That said, I try to write lyrics that are meaningful in one way or the other. I guess I became the band’s main lyricist simply out of necessity. In Vain is not an instrumental band, so we need lyrics. Our singer Andreas has written before, but not enough, so I had to step up to the plate and produce lyrics is well. Since we started In Vain I have written about 90 percent of the lyrics.
From life in general I guess. From my travels, everyday life, movies, etc. I can get inspiration from just hearing a really cool sentence, a word, etc. Sometimes I come up with a song title I really like and try to write specific lyrics around that.
Personally, I believe Jan Kenneth Transeth (ex. In the Woods, Transit, soXpan) is an absolutely amazing lyricist. He is able to write really poetic, interesting, and clever lyrics. He could be an author if he wanted.
It is hard to come up with any specific line of his work, but I like the start of “Miller Song”, from Transit’s album Desperate Man on a Desperate Moon. It has also a lot to do with the particular way he sings it:
“I wanted to be free like so many before me. I wanted to leave, but she left before me.
“Something had touched me, deep inside; A bulb from the basement, like a thorn in my side.
“What a ride, ‘neath the weeping clouds by the light of the moon. What a ride, superstition proved.”
I do not really believe [my lyric style/process] has changed a lot to be honest. As with the music, which is quite diverse, so have also our lyrics always been. Diverse music calls for diverse lyrics in my opinion. I guess that if we had played e.g. old school DM, our lyrics would have been much relating to the same topics.
One change that has occurred throughout the years is that in the past we would write lyrics and then just sing them how they were written. Later on we became much more aware about song lines and vocal rhythms and to a greater extent adapted the lyrics to make them fit better with the actual music.
The lyrics from the song “Sombre Fall, Burdened Winter” (Mantra, 2009) directly relate to some injuries I was struggling with for years, back around 2003-2004. I had just started university and developed some arm and hand injuries. Basically, I could not use my arms in a normal way. More specifically, I could not take any notes or write, so I even considered quitting my studies. I could not even use a computer, I could not work out and — most importantly — I could not play the guitar. In fact, I was considering shutting down In Vain during that time.
To cut a long story short, I was able to overcome my injuries and the band is still going strong as you know. I am still not 100% but I function as normal now. If you read the lyrics you will see that they are very direct in the way they deal with this topic. The lyrics and music also work well together in this track. From about 4:20 into the song, there is an instrumental part which functions as a separation between the first verses, which are quite dark, and the last verse which is much more positive and hopeful.
That reflects the change from where I saw a light at the end of the tunnel concerning my injuries.
I want to give an example from our latest album, Currents, with the song “Blood We Shed”. I read that some people do not like the lyrics, I guess it depends on how the interpret them. Regardless, I do not care because these lyrics are not fiction, but our very own real-life experiences from being in a band for more than 15 years.
Being in a band with different personalities, different and often strong opinions about art, etc can easily create challenges. It can even create bad blood. This is something only people who have played in a band can relate to. In Vain has had our fair share of trouble, struggles and fights throughout the years. Mostly it is because art is very personal and people have strong and often contradictory opinions. That is what the lyrics of this song are about.
Thanks a lot for your time and for good work at No Clean Singing! I highly enjoy reading your well-written reviews! Keep up the good work!
“BLOOD WE SHED” — LYRICS
Determined minds, high aspirations
with a clear vision, to reach new heights
in creative expression, in the name of art
Blood we shed, in artistic creation
blood we shed, in devotion to art
blood we shed, towards new ambitions, blood we shed
Alive and vital, as a creative force, with aim for perfection
we share no compromise in artistic creation
we will stir a wake, and blood will be shed
Blood we shed for you, in artistic creation
blood we shed for you, in devotion to our art
blood we shed for you, towards new ambitions
blood we shed for you, soars the dream we are living on