Kampfar, Hate and more at Backstage (2014)

Backstage (Munich, Germany)

Kampfar, Hate, Velnais, Iskald
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By Erika Kuenstler
March 28, 2014

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After just one single live appearance in all of 2013, KAMPFAR are finally back in the saddle, touring Europe again with a total of 16 shows in 7 different countries. With ISKALD and VELNIAS as opening acts, and with HATE as the main support, the Spreading The Plague Tour is set to blight Europe over the next two weeks. As Munich was the first show of the tour, all the pre-celebrations and preparations meant that most of the bands were running on only one hour's worth of sleep, yet each band put on an outstanding set. My first impression upon walking through Backstage's doors was disappointment at the relatively small turn-out for the show, frankly I expected much more people to attend as this is quite a promising event. But over the course of the night, the audience proved that size isn't everything.
First up was ISKALD, a Melodic Black Metal band from Norway. With their excellent fourth full-length album "Nedom og Nord" having just been released at the beginning of the year through Indie Recordings. These four frost-bitten Northern warriors warmed up the crowd with their anthems of darkness, bringing to life their complex and beautiful songs like "Underworldly". This was my first introduction to the band, and I was blown away by their superb performance; I shall definitely be keeping my eyes on them in the future.

Next up was VELNAIS, an American Blackened Folk / Doom Metal band. Whilst Black Metal bands in general often don't exactly go out of their way to engage the crowd, VELNIAS took this a step further, spending most of their time either with their backs to the crowd or facing each other, and often only turning towards the audience when they needed to use the microphones. But this aside, they did put on a very good set, and they had the audience enthralled from beginning to end with their lengthy and spell-binding songs.

In stark contrast to the dark but mellow set put on by VELNIAS, HATE destroyed the crowd with their grim ferocity. Being another phenomenal Blackened Death Metal band from Poland, HATE's eighth full-length album "Solarflesh: A Gospel of Radiant Divinity" was released at the beginning of last year, and so it wasn't surprising that their set mainly consisted of newer songs from 2005 onwards. The crowd was already well into the swing of things thanks to the previous two bands, but HATE provide the last spark that was needed to set the night aflame. Their performance was nothing short of spectacular, and I am very much looking forward to seeing them again on their slew of up-coming shows this year.

1. Omega
2. Erebos
3. Luminous Horizon
4. Wrists
5. Festival of Slaves
6. Sadness Will Last Forever
7. Alchemy of Blood
8. Hex
9. Resurrection Machine
10. Threnody
11. Catharsis
12. Eternal Might

Finally it was time for the headliners of the night, the highly distinctive Norse Pagan Folklore Metal band KAMPFAR. In my eyes, this is a truly one-of-a-kind Black Metal band, and this was the first time I got to see them live, so needless to say, I had very high expectations, each of which the band met with ease. With their recently released sixth full-length album, "Djevelmakt", just in time for their 20th anniversary this year, KAMPFAR put on a diverse setlist, with something in there for everyone. For the encore, older KAMPFAR fans were absolutely delighted when the band played the track "Hymne" off of the very first album "Mellom Skogkledde Aaser". Such powerful energies for this veteran band aren't that common, especially in this type of genre in Metal music. The term swarming the stage sounded weak in its gravity in comparison to what they were able to accomplish that night. All in all, KAMPFAR put on an incomparable show, ensuring that this tour will certainly be one to remember.

1. Myler
2. De Død Og Trolldom
3. Swarm Norvegicus
4. Lyktemenn/Til Siste Mann
5. Vettekult
6. Altergang
7. Ravenheart
8. Hymne
9. Our Hounds, Our Legion
Onsite Interview – Dolk (Kampfar)

The distinctive Norse Pagan Folklore Metal band KAMPFAR has recently released their sixth full-length album, "Djevelmakt", just in time for their 20th anniversary this year. I had the pleasure of interviewing their frontman Dolk, who took some time out before a show to talk about record labels, the new album, the history of the band, and Black Metal in general.

First of all, I'd like to say congratulations on your new album; I really enjoyed listening to it. My first question would be that, especially in KAMPFAR's earlier history, you guys had a bit of bad luck with record labels, and you seemed to have something solid going with Napalm Records. What made you decide to leave them?

Well, we were actually quite happy about Napalm, and we're all good actually, but the thing is we reached the point now that we wanted, and what split us from Napalm was that we wanted more control ourselves in a way. Because Napalm, they're quite a big label and they have their own opinion about things, and we have our own opinion about things. So we wanted to have more control, especially in the art itself so that's why we decided to just split up and we went back to Indie in Norway which is so much more easy because it's like one hour away from my home and I can talk to them every day almost on the phone. It's easy to connect with a Norwegian label. That's more or less the reason.

So the difference in control over your music is pretty much the reason why you chose Indie Recordings over any other record label, say in Norway?

In Norway, there are a couple of others, going around in more or less the underground scene. But when we were splitting with Napalm we were discussing all kinds of options to go otherways, like in Germany. We had some talks with Nuclear Blast, and we had some talks with the big ones, and we had some talk with the ones in the middle, and we had some talks with Indie, and in the end it was easy to go with Indie. So because we had the same kind of opinions about things: that was the most important thing.

Putting your entire album on the internet for free was quite a bold move.

Yeah, that was also something. We've never had a record label that has said "Yeah, let's go all the way and do that".

It clearly paid off, seeing as Indie Recordings and Nuclear Blast are almost sold out of digipaks. Would you consider doing that again for future releases?

It worked this time, so why shouldn't it work later on? There's no plans for that though.

One thing that really struck me when I was listening to the new album was the fact that even though the band has existed for so many years, you can still hear the original KAMPFAR's roots in there. Is this coincidental or does the band strive to keep your origins in mind?

Definitely, we do that. We reached this point that we have to like, of course we are musicians, we've been doing this for 20 years now, and we wanted of course to push our limits and to develop, but I mean it's very important to us to stick to the roots too. So that's what we tried to do with this album. We tried to go both left and right, in every direction, but in the centre there's still old school KAMPFAR in a way. At least that has been the idea. So, if we have succeeded in that, I don't know, but it seems like it, because people are talking a lot about the old school roots, which is lying there. But still it's moving forward, and that's the main idea.

 "Djevelmakt" is the first album that you have done without Thomas's input. How do you think this has influenced the album?

I think when Ole entered the band, we got more inspiration going on again. It's like new, fresh blood, and thinking in maybe a different way than we used to do. Not just walk the path over and over again. And he's the kind of guy who, when he got into the rehearsing room for the first time and played 10 KAMPFAR songs better than the rest of us. That's just how he is, and he has kind of pushed everyone, and in that sense, I think the band has been growing on that. And I think that's also the music has been growing on that. Especially me and Ole have been working really really close the last year for this album, so I think my Old School stuff, my Old School roots are coming through, and his new ideas are coming through, and we mix it together in a way.

With the album's artwork, it's the first time in the band's history that you've used an existing painting, rather than commissioning something new. What made you decide to do this?

Again, we wanted to do something new and fresh, and to develop every aspect of everything, and that also contains the album cover and the layout. Every detail on this album is a detail that is there for a reason. There is nothing there that we can say "Ah, I didn't think about that". Every detail is thought about, and it's the same with the cover. We wanted something different, but at the same time we wanted something that if you look at it, you can see that there's also some KAPMFAR stuff going on in the colour. And I think you can see that. Especially if you think about our previous album "Mare", you have some elements there which that album also has. Still it's new, but also old in a way.

I read that you chose the album artwork before you started recording, and that it actually influenced some of the songs.

Some of the songs, yes.

What does the album artwork mean to you personally, or how did it influence the music?

It's really hard to answer that, but to me it's like when you think about when you were a young kid and you bought albums, and you could sit for hours just listening to the music and watch the cover and come up with your own images. And that's what we tried to do with this album. We tried to maybe capture this thing that you will miss if you just download the music. And that's why we did this cover, and that's why it felt so natural for us, some of these paintings had so much energy so it was very, very easy to go into that flow that we already started. So it's hard to answer, but I think it's more just natural. Everything comes together in a way, more and more than ever.

Seeing as its KAMPFAR's 20 year anniversary, looking back on your history, if you could go back and change anything, is there anything you would change, or has everything been a learning curve?

I don't think I would change anything actually when it comes to the music, because everything has its time. You know, when you talk about our debut album there's almost not any bass there in the sound, but in the end, it is what it was. That's where we came from. And I wouldn't change that. The only thing I would change is more business stuff. Like for instance the debut album, there was crazy stuff going on. They sold out; they didn't know what to expect, and they printed like 6000 copies and in five days they were sold out, but they didn't have any money to print out new ones, and all this shit going on. But the whole thing at the end is you were young and you didn't read the contract good enough. You just signed because you were quite happy to have an album deal. We lost a lot of money on that one. So it's more those things that you have learned, and you kind of regret that. That's more business-wise stuff. But when it comes to the music, when it comes to how the band developed, I think we cannot regret that, because it's as you say a learning curve. In a way I'm thinking the same stuff that I did 20 years ago, but then the other way also, you learn some stuff on the way also that you know where to go and what to demand, and you know more about the path you're going.

Following on from that, I hear you're writing your memoirs. Are you writing that for personal reasons, or do you intend to publish it one day?

I'm doing a lot of stuff. Everything is personal in a way. I'm doing it personally first of all. I started this many years ago. Since I've been into this Black Metal circus all these years, you get to know a lot of people and you get to meet a lot of people along the way. And in the end I got more and more questions about these times. I was starting to get tired of that and I started to write for myself to get all these thoughts out. And finally I realised that I maybe have to let go of some feelings and pressure on my shoulders, and I have to write a book about this and release it so that it's out of the system. So that's what I'm doing now, but it's a long process. I've been doing this for two years, and I think I will do it for another two years or something before something is published. But yes, I will publish something.

In terms of the driving force behind the band, has that remained the same throughout the twenty year history or has it changed? And what actually is the driving force? Was there one, or was it a lot of things?

I think it was a lot of things. I think that with KAMPFAR we had two major fuck-ups during our time. After the second album in 1999, both me and Thomas had this really rough period in our lives, so we just had to get everything together. And that was the first period which was really a downer. And then we had a downer again when Thomas said "Enough" in 2010, especially me, because I wasn't aware of it then, but I felt it directly on my body. I was really like having all these shakes and stuff. I was really not prepared for that. It was really way harder for me than I thought it was. At that period, everything was really, really dark. I couldn't see any future of the band at all. But then Ole came along, and there was a new driving force again. The thing has been going in waves all the time. But right now, I think my life situation, I have my own kids now, which has changed my perspective of life. It may sound really weird, but when you get all your shit together in a way, people sometimes think there is nothing there left, there is no edge left, there's just happiness in life. But for me it's totally different, because when I got all this shit together, it was so easy for me to release the inner beast in a way. So it has been the total opposite for me. Because my life is more arranged now than ever, it's easy to focus on KAMPFAR, and to get it out there. So it's hard to answer, but it feels so natural for me right now to do what I'm doing.

A lot of Black Metal bands, especially Norwegian ones, have associated themselves with the whole "Anti-human, Anti-life" movement, but KAMPFAR have always maintained their distance from that, and have never followed that philosophy. Is there any ideology that underlies the band, or is there any message that you try to spread through your music?

Yeah, of course. Ever since the start it has been like that with KAMPFAR. Back in 1994 when I started it, for the first time in Norway I did Black Metal without corpse paint. Today that doesn't mean shit, but back then it was dangerous doing that stuff. It was actually dangerous, and there was getting a lot of threats, because you are supposed to do what everyone else does. You're not supposed to go your own direction in a way. And that driving force, if I can say that, is still here, and we always try to think about that when we create new music. We always try to create "Where would KAMPFAR go?" instead of "Where would BEHEMOTH go?" or where would the other guys go, like WATAIN? Where would KAMPFAR be in all of this? And that has been our focus for many many years now. I think that finally now we got to release that in a way, because KAMPFAR is heading in our direction. That is the main power behind this band. We want to do KAMPFAR, and we don't want to do WATAIN-lite or something. I think in general, Metal has always been going different paths or directions. There's always a bunch of people following that direction. And my goal for KAMPFAR has always been to try to avoid that, to try to go our own way. Even if some bands are playing in big halls, we play at small clubs, because for me, it's not about that. It's about, and this may sound like a cliché, but to me it's actually very important to look at yourself in the mirror and you can actually say that "Yeah, everything I have done with KAMPFAR is at least honest". And that's my goal.

Well, thank you very much for your time, and I hope you have a great time on stage tonight!


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