(We present Comrade Aleks‘ interview of Yves Allaire, the man behind the Quebec black metal band Nordicwinter, whose newest album Sorrow will be released by Hypnotic Dirge on March 26th.)
I’m the wrong person if you need to know something new about black metal, but from time to time some blackened promos hit my mailbox. This time it was Nordicwinter, a Canadian one-man band started by Yves Allaire about 15 years ago. I found its relatively new album Desolation among a few fresh releases from Hypnotic Dirge and was attracted by Nordicwinter’s bleak and atmospheric sound. Also Yves tends towards mid-paced themes with some cold, almost epic melodic lines, and I dig such depressive themes that avoid the faster side of black metal.
The winter is almost done, so let’s keep it here a bit longer with some Canadian black metal.
Hi Yves! How are you? How strict are the quarantine rules in Saint-Eustache?
Hi Aleks, I’m doing well. I’m currently in a ‘red zone’ here in St-Eustache, so right now we have an 8 pm curfew, so the streets are deserted at night. We also have a no-visitor rule where no one from another address can visit, so we stay at home except to get groceries and take walks during the day.
Damn… I guess it’s the first time I’ve heard about such hard restrictions since April. Saint-Eustache doesn’t leave an impression of an overcrowded place. How is this necessary from your point of view?
I’m not sure why it’s so strict here. It’s not a huge town with tons of people; we don’t even really have a downtown like Montreal has. I guess they rather blanket the whole region with restrictions instead of having each town have its own guidelines.
I’ve seen that back in the early ’90s you were involved in the death metal band Dead Society. How were you involved in the underground metal scene?
Dead Society was my first ‘real’ band. We started out as a sort of punk/death hybrid since I wasn’t very good at guitar when we started and I wrote all the music. We went into a more death metal direction once I got better at guitar and writing music. Cornwall is where I was born and lived and it’s a small town and we didn’t have much of a death metal scene beside a few bigger bands that played more thrash metal. We did have quite a few punk bands there. We played mostly house parties with the other band in the town. Everything was very DIY back then, where we made our own fliers and passed them out by hand.
Dead Society was disbanded pretty quickly, and it seems you didn’t play in any more bands ’til 2007 or so. What calmed down your interest toward performing extreme metal?
With Dead Society we recorded a few demos and a live EP, but we actually played together for many years — we only played small local shows. The biggest show we had was with Gorguts, when they had their …And Then Comes Lividity demo out. We loved the demo and we contacted them and they accepted It was a great small show, and they were amazing!
Some time later we started having issues inside the band as some of us wanted to play faster more extreme metal, so we ended up splitting up since some members didn’t want to go in that direction.
A while after that I decided to move from Cornwall and go to Montreal to start a band there with one of my friends. Unfortunately, the day before I moved I got all my guitar gear stolen and so I had no equipment when I arrived in Montreal.
While in Montreal, I really got into black metal more than I had before. I did finally get a guitar and actually practiced with Tenebrae a few times, but as I was on welfare at the time and didn’t have much money I couldn’t afford gear and the practice studio cost, so that didn’t work out for me. I did end up joining another black metal band called Impurity (https://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Impurity/18210) after they released their demo in 1995. We played some shows in Montreal and Quebec, but we split up because some of the members didn’t want to play extreme music anymore.
I took many years off after that to concentrate more on my life and finally got a good job at a game company in Montreal making textures for video games. I then decided to start making music alone, and that’s how Kalseroth and Nordicwinter came about — from not having a band but still me having the need to express myself musically.
Nordicwinter – Requiem
Which bands shaped your taste towards black metal as it’s reflected in Nordicwinter?
The main inspiration for the first Nordicwinter was definitely Burzum and early Darkthrone and Throne Of Ahaz. I listened to Throne Of Ahaz so much I wore down the cassette!
I’m kind of profane towards the underground black metal scene, but I have an impression that the solo project is a popular form of Canadian black metal acts, more popular than “normal” bands. Is this guess close to the real state of affairs?
I would tend to agree. Quebec, especially Montreal, has always been more of a ‘Death Metal’ area with such bands as Gorguts, Cryptopsy, Kataklysm, Neuraxis etc. At the time of the early ’90s there weren’t many black metal bands that really got very popular except perhaps Tenebrae and Frozen Shadows a bit later. The black metal scene at that time was smaller compared to the death metal scene. Of course many years later, there are far more well-known black metal bands from Quebec, and a lot of them happen to be one-man bands. Especially now with the pandemic around, it creates a situation where one-man bands have a chance to develop further.
Which black metal features attracted you to this genre? It seems you aren’t into its satanic side, but obviously you tend towards its “atmospheric” or “nihilistic” aspects.
I’ve always gravitated towards bands that create atmosphere and emotions with their music. That really started when I first heard Hellhammer‘s Apocalyptic Raids and Bathory‘s first albums. Granted, nowadays you wouldn’t say that these albums are ‘atmospheric’ in a real sense, but I’m from a small town and all I heard up to that time was AC/DC and stuff like that. Hearing those bands really brought me into a new world with their sounds. It was so different from everything else at that time, it really opened my eyes on what music could achieve.
Nordicwinter is your “main” musical projects nowadays. You started it around 14 years ago, but you put it on hold after the Threnody debut release. What were people’s reaction to the album back then?
The reaction to Threnody was mixed. I got some great reviews and some bad ones. Most of the negative reviews said it was too slow of an album, but that was the point; to make a slow/mid-tempo, simple style of desolate black metal. But generally it was positive.
Why did you put aside Nordicwinter after this release?
It was mostly due to health issues. I missed three years of work due to that. After the Threnody album came out in 2007 I tried to work on a new album but lost all motivation to finish it. I tried doing some other styles to see if I could get motivated by doing something new. I did end up doing a traditional doom album under the name Dark Covenant with some friends. A couple of years later we ended up making an EP in 2009, but then stopped again for a few years due to my health. But we finally did a full-length in 2011. After that I pretty much stopped doing anything substantial musically for many years. I mostly just tried to get my life in order and my health better.
You’ve released two Nordicwinter full-lengths during the relatively short period of April – June 2020: Requiem and Desolation. How did you manage to complete two albums almost at the same time?
After so many years of not doing anything musically, I got to feeling a lot better at that time and the inspiration hit me. After seeing what could be done with Bandcamp, I decided it would be quite easy to do an album and just release it online. The first album I released was under the name Kalseroth, a mix of death and black metal. After that release I decided to stick to a more black metal sound. I recorded Requiem, but it wasn’t supposed to be a Nordicwinter album per se, just an album I needed to make at that time. When it was time to release it I decided I might as well go with the ‘Nordicwinter’ name and not bother trying to start a new band name no one had heard of and just continue what I started in 2007. I sent the album out to a bunch of labels in April and got an email from Dark East Productions and said he would release it on CD but only in July. I released it digitally a little while after that.
While waiting for the July date to come and being stuck at home due to the Covid, I had nothing else to do than to work on music. I started working on a new album, but the music just came to me pretty quickly and I ended up having enough material for a new album. So, I worked on the songs some more and released Desolation in June. I sent it out to some labels but no one got back to me, so I decided to self-finance it and released a limited run of 50 digipaks and did some 25 shirts.
And then it was re-released by Nic and Hypnotic Dirge, right? Were you disappointed with such low interest towards Nordicwinter back in June?
Yeah, Hypnotic Dirge Records decided to re-issue Desolation after we agreed to release Sorrow. I told him I only had a few of the limited Desolation CD’s left and needed to order some more, so he decided to re-issue it himself, that was really great of him to do that.
To be honest I was a little confused why no one wanted to release Desolation. Obviously I liked the album a lot, and wondered why no one else seemed to also, but it really didn’t matter since I said ‘screw them’ and released it myself in the end. Desolation did pretty good once Black Metal Promotions posted the full album on their YouTube, and what I saw from the sales on Bandcamp was that a lot of people would buy all my CD’s at once, not just one of them, so that was pretty cool to see. I ended up selling out my remaining Threnody and Requiem albums as well as my remaining Desolation digipaks.
The reviews I got for Desolation have been great also, I’ve had 8/10’s all the way up to a 10/10. For a style of music that is for a very narrow percentage of the black metal scene, that makes me feel good to see. It shows that for that small percentage of those people who enjoy this music, they appreciate what I have created. That’s really why I create this style of music, for those people who appreciate it and get something out of it.
How would you identify the main differences between Requiem and Desolation? Do you see still enough space for Nordicwinter’s development inside your current concept?
I think I set up the full range of the Nordicwinter concept with Requiem. That being, very slow melodic passages and some faster aggressive parts. Having set up those two extremities I can create whatever I want inside my own so called “limits”. Desolation really concentrates on the slower parts of that range, being a slow and more of a DSBM-style album with some mid-tempo sections to create some dynamic effects. That also enables me to go and create a slightly faster album if I want to in the future.
Nordicwinter – Desolation
Yves, you started the black/death solo project Kalseroth in 2020. What was your main motivation behind it? Could you express the same ideas through Nordicwinter?
Kalseroth was my first time writing music in a long time to a point that it could be released, and I was experimenting with different styles to see what I could come up with. Some of the more ‘black metal’ parts could very well fit into the Nordicwinter project. That’s the main reason I didn’t pursue the Kalseroth project more after its first releases – I wanted to keep my black metal ideas for Nordicwinter, hence the second Kalseroth EP was pure old school death metal.
The doom-death project Sinistral Doom is fresher, with a debut EP Beyond Twilight’s Embers. Do you aim to put more energy into this project?
Yeah, this is music I wanted to make for a long time, as I do really enjoy Doom. When I got my 7-string I decided to try and make something in that style. Unfortunately, after trying to get it out there and posting it everywhere I could think of, it didn’t really get much attention, which is fine, but I may revisit it in the future.
Do you really see the situation with Sinistral Doom’s promotion as so desperate? Maybe a full-length album could turn the tide?
That’s something I need to figure out. I’ve been creating so much music in the past year. Besides all the metal music, I also released some Dark Ambient music too with the Umbrarum Tenebrae project. I think that Sinistral Doom may be the second project I’ll be working on with Nordicwinter, as the styles are different and I don’t really see them getting in conflict with each other. That something I plan to think about this year though. My plan is to limit myself to only two projects a year. We’ll see if that works out!
Do you keep in touch with some black or doom-death bands that could make good company with you for some split albums? Another proper way to promote a band!
No, I don’t talk to any Doom bands. That might be something I need to do, but I’m not very social. But yes, that may be an option! If anyone is interested in a Death/Doom split let me know!
What are your plans for 2021? Which projects are your priorities now?
As of right now, I have my newest Nordicwinter album called Sorrow coming out on Hypnotic Dirge Records March 26th of this year. I’m really excited about this release; I’m really proud of the music on this record. Hypnotic Dirge Records is also releasing some great merchandise for it, which is great!
For 2021, I am also slowing down on the amount of bands/projects I am working on. I decided to keep Nordicwinter as my main band and put all my efforts into that.
I do have a few surprises in the works for 2021 with Nordicwinter, but I can’t talk about them right now; more information will be released during the year…so keep an eye out for that!
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!