(In this new interview our Norway-based contributor Karina Noctum talks with guitarist Tjalve of the Norwegian black metal band Svartelder, whose latest album Pits was released by Dusktone on January 26th of this year.)
Svartelder is a Norwegian band that caught and kept my attention ever since I first listened to them. They bring forth dark melodies that are characteristically Norwegian. I can’t say I can compare their music to other bands directly, but however it does evoke Mayhem, Arcturus, and perhaps a bit of modern melody also comes to mind, like the sound of Old Man’s Child, although faintly. But this is why Svartelder is interesting. The music is a bit familiar, but it is something different at the same time.
The composition and performing reflect the high skills of seasoned musicians such as Tjalve (1349, Den Saakaldte, Pantheon I), Doedsadmiral (Nordjevel, Doedsvangr), Spektre (Gaahls Wyrd, Horizon Ablaze) and Renton (Trollfest). Their latest album Pits, which is out now, is very interesting as a whole. It stands as a cohesive piece; the songs seem to fit an overall plan when it comes to the song order (this is something to be truly appreciated in this era of iTunes albums made so that each song targets one particular section of the market). Pits is enjoyable because of the particular considerations that seem to have been given when it comes to tempos and arrangements, as well as the excellent musical performance.
But anyway, you should definitely try it for yourself, and form your own opinion, because it is worth your time. And now, we talk with Tjalve:
What motivations do you have for being involved in a side project such as Svartelder, considering that you play in several bands?
This is not the traditional side project, so I would not call it that. The motivation for Svartelder is that it is a playground for the ideas that would not fit any other ventures.
In Svartelder there are no walls whatsoever in the creative development. I know that certain bands out there say that they have no boundaries to their song-writing, but that is bullshit. They write 100% creatively within their comfort-zone, within their own walls. In Svartelder I could easily incorporate a hip-hop beat or do a country-scaled riff. On the previous album I did some flamenco stuff I thought fitted right in.
I pay absolutely no attention to what the listener might expect or want from Svartelder. The fact that we have a following is a bonus for me. Don’t get me wrong, I value our listeners very much and praise them highly, but when it comes to the creative process I let the mood and my demons do the work. And they work on a very egotistical level.
Are there any guest contributions to the new album?
We had a change in the lineup from the previous album, but no guests were needed on this album.
I believe the sound in the new album is much more refined — what factors contributed to achieve this level?
That would be attributed to the new lineup and the vision I have as creator of the melodies. First, the visions I have for each album, and each song, are individual. We deal with each song by itself and when we have created a good handful of songs and ideas we can get a feel of what the album will be like. Then we can form the album accordingly to our liking. We might kill some darlings in the process of achieving the best album possible.
Second, the other factor is having the skill-level that each individual has in Svartelder. For example, the drummer knows what drum patterns are the best, and the key-player knows best what to add to the soup. I place my full trust in every single one in the band that what they contribute is for the best of the album. I have yet to say No to an idea submitted. When I create a riff or a passage, and Renton creates a layer of a lead over that, he usually takes the piece of music to a whole new level, and I am always taken back and surprised by what he does. I love being surprised and blown away by what other individuals do to my original ideas. In addition I think the production must always suit the moods and melodies, or else the whole exercise would be futile.
Even though the album is cohesive (I mean that it stands as a whole sound-wise), every song is different. I really like the arrangements in VI and VII.. so yeah I want to hear more about the process of composition and arranging the songs. How much experimentation do you do? Or do you have a clear idea of what you want, and just work towards creating?
The process is more intense than the traditional way of songwriting. I don’t want to dissect the ritual, but I can say that we are setting fire to the songwriting manual and are creating our own way of composing. I have written so many songs for 1349, Den Saakaldte, and Pantheon I and the magic of that has been created mostly in the rehearsal-room. With Svartelder I can say that nothing is rehearsed, and in fact I have never even met Doedsadmiral. Yet we are working very closely.
Who produced Pits?
Svartelder, and the brilliant sound is due to Patrick Guiraud.
What plans do you have when it comes to live performances?
We have no plans to do a live performance, but if the time is right and all parts are aligned we might so something. I consider Svartelder‘s music as painting. You rarely see a great painter do his paintings live.
Tell me what the lyrics are all about? What inspired them? Who wrote them?
The lyrics are written by Doedsadmiral and are a description on his inner struggles. I don’t want to embellish too much in this matter since I am not the creator of the lyrics.
How should the Norwegian BM legacy be carried forward?
It should be with integrity. I often hear bands that duplicate a certain sound just because they are fans of other bands. I believe that the goal for each album is to make sure it has its own identity. I would not want to have the ”Metallica-sound”, the “Satyricon-sound”, or the “Emperor-sound” — these artist have their own sound and they are pioneers. So my suggestions to all Black Metal bands out there is this: be pioneers!