(We welcome back to NCS Argentinian writer Matías Gallardo, who brings us the following interview of guitarist M.K. and vocalist A.J. of the Icelandic band Draugsól, whose debut album Volaða Land was released in January by Signal Rex and can be streamed in full after the interview.)
It seems ‘Icelandic’ and ‘black metal’ are two terms that work extremely well together. If you have doubts, just listen to Volaða Land, the debut album by Reykjavík-based trio Draugsól. In less than 40 minutes, these newcomers display a unique approach to the vicious sounds we’ve heard coming from the land of eternal ice.
In fact, the mixture between classic Scandinavian black metal riffing, ambient-like passages, and epic melodies sounds extremely personal for such a new band. Now, read what guitarist M.K. and vocalist A.J. has to say about the album that might turn Draugsól into one of the year’s most pleasant surprises.
A couple of weeks ago Draugsól played at the Oration festival in Reykjavík. How was it like?
Cathartic to say the least. Followed by the recording process, the band had not performed live for over a year. When asked to perform at the festival we simply could not resist. We welcomed a couple of new members in addition to the lineup and went back to the rehearsal space where it all started. The crowd was simply amazing and getting to play these songs again was like an emotional cleansing, if you will. Everything went accordingly.
How was the atmosphere during the festival? It seems it was the mandatory show to attend in order to fully grasp what Icelandic black metal is offering right now.
It was suspenseful in the best way possible. Indeed, almost all the local black metal bands (at least those who currently perform live) were playing.
Draugsól was formed two years ago. What was the main idea behind playing together?
The idea was to create authentic music from the bottom of our hearts and minds and we feel like we have done just that.
Back in January the band released Volaða Land through Signal Rex. The album not only sounds very brutal, but melodic, epic, and even progressive. What would you say were the main musical influences?
Volaða Land was a kind of expressive burst that we all felt was needed to satiate our hunger as musicians. This album was mostly influenced by the country we live in and everything it holds, but musically we have influences ranging from extreme metal to classical, jazz, ambient, and many more.
I like the fact that you didn’t waste your time releasing demos or EP’s and went straight for the LP. How was the songwriting process for these songs?
Thank you. We did not want to waste our time by releasing a demo or anything of the sort. We thought that the most logical course of action for a new band as ourselves was to bring a full-length to the table and we are happy we made that decision. All the songs on the album were written on a single guitar at home and then assembled in the rehearsal space, where everybody had a chance to pitch in. This made the writing process feel very natural and organic.
Some of the concepts on the album are self-realization and the quest for a personal purpose. How much has living in Iceland influenced that lyrical approach? It seems these topics are something many Icelandic bands are currently dealing with.
Boredom, meaningless existence, and probably some sort of cabin fever. This is an isolated island, mind you. There’s not much to do around here and it’s dark for like 9 months a year. The Icelandic nature, weather conditions, and the society in general often push oneself to the borders of suicide. But that would also be pretty pointless.
There’s a sense of bleakness in black metal that doesn’t seem to be so dominant in Draugsól’s music. How important is it for the band to include different dimensions in your music?
Looks can be deceiving, but in general terms you are right. Our music is not bleak in a traditional sense, although the lyrics do speak of great despair. As much as we love orthodox Black Metal, we wanted to venture into different territory, and not only as a part of our musical exploration but also to not make an album that has already been made by our peers.
During the last couple of years Icelandic black metal has gained a lot of attention, but what’s your view on the scene? Is there one?
We actually find all of this attention kind of weird. Don’t get me wrong, these are all great musicians and yes there’s definitely a scene going, but they are still just our buddies since we were teenagers and are respected and viewed accordingly. We’re all just doing our thing, playing our music.