When I introduce myself, they all gathered round the table and the interview could start. Alas it was immediately obvious that vocalist Kenneth 'Ripper' Olsen has lost his voice. His contribution to the interview was forced to none. But other founding member, guitarist Rolv Erik Berge took the opportunity to talk and new bass player Orjan Hjarandr Setvik who reminded me of Kjetil Nordhus of Green Carnation added some words as well. They all agreed that 'Silent Seas' was a product of its time and the production was not really superb. That's a huge improvement on 'Days Of Wrath'. But what happened with the band during that long hiatus? Did they broke up? Rolv Erik tells: "After 'Silent Seas' many members left the band, but Kenneth and I always stayed together, making music. But it is not that easy to write songs with only a singer and a guitar player. And it was not that easy to find three new musicians. We tried out some guys and rehearsed some songs, but it took quite a while to be complete again. But we never broke up."
THE BERGEN METAL SCENE
In 2003 the band started again for good and it is their third European tour since then. Bass player Orjan Hjarandr Setvik tells: "Yes, we did a small tour right after I joined the band with another drummer and another guitar player. So, this is the second one with this line-up. This is a stable line-up, we all get along very well and live for the music, we all have a different view on music and it will develop the band." The guys are helped by members of Enslaved. "The record is produced by Herbrand Larsen because he runs the studio, so it was normal. That's the way it goes in Bergen, musicians help and promote each other to make the scene strong, no matter what genre you play.They are just friends." That's why there are many guest musicians on the album. Grutle Kejellson of Enslaved appeared on 'A Death Tear', Silje Wergeland of Oktavia Sperati appears on three songs for some female vocals, Bjornar E. Nilsen appears on 'Stigma Diabolicum' and Yoko Homo of Murder Mile appears on 'Semper Ardens'. In the production team we caught names as Ice Dale (Enslaved, I, Audrey Horne) and Bjornar Nilsen. So it is a true gathering of the musicians who live in Bergen, the port in South-West Norway. Yoko Homo is a strange name. They laughed and told me: "He sings in this London based punk band Murder Mile and he did a show with us in London. He just did some lines on the song and went back."
For the artwork the band used a painting of My Dying Bride singer Aaron Stainthorpe. How did this work out? Rolverik tells: "We have the My Dying Bride albums and the covers are really fantastic. We came across his website and saw a lot of good paintings. We just asked if we could use it. He said yes and we were very happy about that."
What are the early influences of the guys when they started to make music? This time singer Kenneth answers: "I was into the NWOBHM, Iron Maiden, Angelwitch, Witchfinder General, Saxon and stuff like that but I wanted to make heavier music. I had a thought making a mix between classic NWOBHM stuff and English early nineties doom, that would be a great combination. I would like to get a heavy metal feel on the music but do the growl vocals and have doom elements also. I was also into early Paradise Lost / My Dying Bride and when I met Rolv Erik we started to try out things. SYRACH anno 2007 is more a mix between doom/death and rock 'n' roll... and we have a rock 'n' roll attitude on stage, rocking out while we play live and that's a lot of fun for us...the best feeling!!" How was the tour until now? Orjan: "Brilliant. It is always great to drive around and meet new people. Being on stage is just the best kick ever. That's why we do it. It is fun." I expressed my admiration that they tour Europe as an underground band. Many bands don't do it because it costs money. Orjan confirms: "It costs some money but it is worth it." And Rolverik adds: "It is not more expensive than when you go fourteen days on holiday. Well, I prefer touring then. This is much more fun. And it doesn't have to cost that much either. This is like a holiday, a vacation… just with more beer." (laughs) When he says to like the beautiful sceneries on the road, I tell him that Norway is much more beautiful than our countries nature-wise. "Yes, but when you live in Norway you are used to it and you like to see the flat lands." But Orjan says: "I still like to drive around in Norway, walking in the woods…"
Tomorrow they have another gig in Belgium and then it goes to the North: last gig of the ten days tour will take place in Helmond (Holland). It was planned to do a gig on the fourth of April in Gothenburg, but their van broke down, so they had to cancel it. "But we'll do that gig later on this year. We drive around in a hired van now and have to pick it up later." Orjan tells. On my question what we can expect tonight, Rolverik says: "We had to drop some songs because we are the third band on the bill, so we haven't decided yet which ones. Maybe we will play a brand new one." On the score of the new members they don't play songs from the first album 'Silent Seas' anymore. These new lads saw that debut album for the first time in their lives (I had it with me). Funny thing.
Since the interview was not complete enough to satisfy me, I sent some additional questions to Norway after their return. This is the continuing story.
What about the van? Do you have it back already? Rolv- Erik: The van is still standing in a workshop in the middle of Germany, but we reckon we'll have it back within May. When we arrived to pick it up, they hadn't even ordered the part that we needed, so we all had to take a plane home. This is kind of annoying, since we had to leave all our equipment in the van. So now we don't get to do much rehearsal or playing gigs. But hopefully we'll have it back soon, so then we can get started again.
Can you tell something about the first tour in Europe, which countries did you visit, what was the response and which bands did you play with? Rolv-Erik: Last time we played some of the same clubs. We took the good ones and came back this year, and at the same time tried out some new ones. We played in Denmark, Germany, Holland, Belgium and we also played at the No Mercy tour in Prague. There we played at the second scene together with the Norwegian act Kampfar amongst others. We got very good response on our gigs the last time as well, but it was a shame that we didn't have any CD's to sell. This time however, we sold a few copies hehe.
Can you mention any differences with this tour? Ken: Well, we're a better band, but it's basically the same shit: driving around in a van. But we get better jobs on the two last tours, playing with better bands, like last year's No Mercy date in Prague, with Cannibal Corpse, Kataklysm, Legions of the Damned and Norwegian Grimfist. Nice to be on the same bill...but we did the B-stage, haha...
Rolv-Erik: The main difference with this tour is that we actually had a product to sell and to promote the album in a proper way. We also had some more decent clubs to play, and did some money out of it. We were actually about to make some money on this tour, but then of course our van broke down and ruined that plan. But since we're not in this for the money, it's alright.
The album is self-released at the moment. Are there any plans to ink a deal with a label or any prospects? And what about distribution?
Ken: We are promoting the album and looking for a record deal, those bits are interests because of the promotion, bit of the release. Now we have the freedom to own our product, and that's superb. We are in contact with some labels, probably the album will be released (again) with good distribution worldwide...but nothing's ready yet....we have ten years to figure this out, so we relax hehe.
Rolv-Erik: We are at the time in dialogue with some labels, but nothing is set yet. We are first and foremost looking for distribution, but we'll see what the talks are leading to. We are not in any rush of getting a deal, since we already have albums to sell. But a distribution deal would be nice, since it's kind of hard to sell one and one album via our sites. But we'll keep on doing that 'til something better comes along.
If there are any songs on the album you want to tell a bit more about, I would be delighted…
Ken: Well, my favourite on the album is 'The Firm Grip Of Death', a brilliant fourteen minute + hymn of doom. Actually this song is two songs put together to be one long song, originally there was 'The Firm Grip Of Death' & 'Hundred Hands'. But we linked them together and made some changes and now it is the best song on the album, in my opinion. I am not sure if everyone's agreed with me on that one, because the songs demand a bit patience from the listener, but if you try hard enough the song reveals itself to you....but there are shorter cuts on the album that's more catchy, like 'Nine Fallen Men' & 'Are You Able To Breathe Fire?'.
Rolv Erik: I can tell you that the song 'The Firm Grip Of Death' was one of the least favourites of mine, before entering the studio. But as it turned out, it is now one of the absolute favourites! I also, all of a sudden, love to play the song live.
What's the lyrical theme (s) of the album and what are your main sources of inspiration? Ken: I write the lyrics and they are dark thoughts, hehe...well, they are about all in between birth and death. Life itself, but the darker side of life. And to fit the music and doom deathish style we toss in a bit of extra "death". And there's a reason why the lyrics ain't printed on the album, haha...oh yes, there's a song about witches – 'Stigma Diabolikum', that's the only song on the album with an exact theme...a good song for a video...a good classic Witchfinder General style of song.
How do you look back at this recent tour now?
Rolv Erik: I look back at this tour as a great time. I simply love to play live, and think that it's what it's all about. Playing in front of a crowd, no matter how big, and to see them having a good time and going crazy over our music is more reward than anything else! So we had some good shows on this tour, and we always learn new stuff, and meeting great people. We also find some decent clubs that are worth going back to, next time. It's always good to come back and play the same club again, because if you did a good gig, then more people show up next time.
'Days Of Wrath' will be released in China. That's a quite unusual fact. How did you manage this and what are the expectations?
Rolv Erik: Our expectations about being released in China are not too big. We think it's a great opportunity to promote our music there, but we will sure as hell not make any money from it, since China is the world capital of pirate copying. But we don't care too much about that. When China someday will be more open towards the world outside, we already has a foot inside their door. But of course we think that it's great and we are looking forward to the release date. It's in May, we think there is also an opportunity of doing some touring over there and that would be amazing. China is probably a very fascinating country to travel in, and who knows, maybe they like metal there as well.
Ken: We got this deal through a label, called October Party Records. They are specialized in promoting bands from Bergen, Norway in China. They are also releasing some collections called "Bergen Rock City" which is a collection of many bands. The label, which you may already have guessed is from Bergen, and thus we got the deal.
Do you have many skeletons of songs, small tapes with ideas or "not worked out" songs from the time you were incomplete as a band? Are you already working on new songs for the next album?
Ken: We have some older stuff laying around on mini-discs somewhere. But we will now be working on new songs and there are already some songs ready. The one with a title is 'A Mourners Kiss', we do that live. Another Reichborn (guitar) song is ready, in good traditional Sabs / 70's prog style and I think there will be some good jams on the rehearsals in the next months or so...so the songs will come along. The new songs will certainly be on a new album for next year...
Rolv Erik: We actually have tons of riffs from the earlier days, recorded on mini-discs, but we have lost the discs, at the moment. But we remember some, and those we don't remember will come to mind when/if we find the discs. However, we already have one song complete, and we are also playing it live from time to time. Unfortunately we didn't play it in Hasselt, due to some very hard vocal lines. And when old man Ripper had a throat infection, we left that song out from a couple of gigs. We also have some new ideas for songs, so I will predict that we will have the material ready within a year.
What are your plans for the near future?
Ken: For 2007 the plans are as always, do more live shows, both in native Norway and abroad. Write new songs for a new album and as always... looking for the right record deal hehe.
Rolv Erik: The near future for me consists of parenting, I guess. Me and my fiancée are expecting a daughter any day now. But as for the band, we will try to do as many shows as possible in order of promoting the album, and write new songs. The summer will probably be a bit slow, since we are a bit late for festival gigs. But if we come across something, we'll be happy to play. But if not, that will give us plenty of time to make new music.
Are there other tour plans in the pipeline?
Ken: No, just some one off shows in the horizon, maybe some mini-tours (three dates) in Norway, that kind of stuff...
Rolv Erik: We are not working on a new tour yet, but we'll start booking a new Spring tour later this year. We usually start around November with the booking, since it takes a while to do this on our own. If anyone else is volunteering to do it for us, they are welcome.