It’s the year 2015. After six years of silence, the Swedish Black Metallers DARK FUNERAL reappear with the single “Nail Them To The Cross”, announcing the name of their new singer Andreas Heljarmadr! Heljarmadr was not unknown in the Black Metal scene as he was well known from the beloved band GRÁ and his participation in DOMGÅRD. Coming back to 2020 now, we had the privilege to speak with Andrea’s about DARK FUNERAL, GRÁ and many more interesting things, unveiled in the interview that follows…
– Hello from Athens-Greece Andreas and thank you for your time! How are you and what’s the situation in Sweden with COVID 19 virus?
Andreas: Hello Nikos and thanks for your interest and time. I’m good and haven’t caught the virus yet as far as I know. The situation in Sweden seems to be business as usual more or less, bars are open, people go to restaurants and shopping is totally possible. At least that’s what I see from the news and hear from friends. I haven’t been in Sweden myself since February. I left before the world shut down and am now hanging in South America and will not return before things calm down and my gigs stop being cancelled. Or before we start recording the new Dark Funeral album, whichever comes first.
– First of all, can you tell us the story behind your recruitment in DARK FUNERAL? How did this happen?
Andreas: Well 6 years ago my band Grá was the special guests, opening the Dark Funeral 20th anniversary gig in Stockholm. We got along well during the preparations, Caligula was ending permanently. I asked if they would like to try me out. They did, it was a match and 6 years later I’m still here, working on my 2nd album with the band.
– How did you felt when DARK FUNERAL offered you the opportunity to be their vocalist? Were you nervous because of the inevitable comparison with Emperor Magus Caligula?
Andreas: No I was not
nervous, I asked them if they wanted to try me out because I thought I had
something to give to the band and I had the dedication. I’ve gotten to know
Caligula a bit the last years and he’s a great guy. I don’t fill any “shoes”, I
have my own. I do find it amusing though that I have to answer these questions
still, in every interview I do. 6 years later.
The fans made up their minds with “Where Shadows Forever Reign”, some liked it, others didn’t. Some think comme ci, comme ça. What can I say? I’m not the original singer, Caligula was not the original singer. We’re both supporting the war against christianity under the same banner, in different eras.
– “Where Shadows Forever Reign” is the first album of DARK FUNERAL with you as a vocalist and it was released in 2016. Were the songs already completed when you joined the band or, besides the vocals, you have contributed also at the musical and lyrical part of this record?
Andreas: There were ideas for a couple of songs (scattered riffs) when I joined but nothing complete. Me and Ahriman started with doing Nail Them To The Cross, which I wrote the lyrics too. Then we did Temple of Ahriman which is a collaboration on a topic he had and I refined into the complete lyrics. Those two were recorded for the single on which I was introdeced as the new vocalist. We worked together to get the album done, he wrote the music and I wrote the lyrics. We have our own home studios so we send ideas for riffs and themes and so forth between each other. That’s how we operate.
– There are rumors that DARK FUNERAL are working on a new album! Can you tell us some information about that?
Andreas: Yes we are. In the same way as we did “Where Shadows Forever Reign”, we are working on the next album. Sending ideas and recordings back and forth. There are no more details to share at this point, when we are done writing it, we will book a studio. Musically it will be a natural progression from “Where Shadows Forever Reign”.
– Let’s go now to your other band GRA. In 2018 you have released “Väsen”. Two years after it’s release, do you feel completely satisfied with it? Would you change anything in that album?
Andreas: Yes it was out 2018. I am satisfied with it and listen to it frequently still. We recently released a couple of videos (to the tracks “Väsen” and “The Devil’s Tribe”) and had those songs music featured in the US horror movie “Holland Road Massacre: The Legend of Pigman”.
– In my opinion, “Väsen” has less “raw” sound, without losing its old school feeling, being more mature than your previous records. It’s kind of an exploration beyond your past sound. Is my sense correct? Did your participation in DARK FUNERAL’s affected the songs’ composition for “Väsen”?
Andreas: Well, I have produced, recorded, mixed and mastered all the Grá albums myself in my own studio so obviously there is a learning curve that is reflected in the sound. I did the first Grá EP just for the experience and we liked how it turned out. From then on we spent our studio budgets on gadgets for better recordings. I have to make it clear that the studio budgets for the first albums were a total of 700€ each. If you look at the studio situation in Sweden (or northern Europe really) you of course realise that it’s possibly paying for a 2 song drum recording at best in a semi decent studio. So we decided to keep it DIY all the way. And that is why the sound is slowly developing with every release. I learn new things and apply them to the next recording, with improving gear. I’ve always just done the best I can, which has progressed over time.
Regarding composition for “Väsen”, no I don’t think Dark Funeral has affected that. The music and lyrics are very different from each other. Something I did enjoy a lot on “Väsen” was to go wild on keyboards. We have always had them but more subtle. On “Väsen” I wanted them more prominent and in my own opinion it turned out fucking powerful and suitable. Sources of inspiration came from bands like Emperor, Samael and Tartaros to name a few. Also from classical music.
– Do you have any plans for a new album with GRA? Do you have any new songs written?
Andreas: Eventually yes. I have a bunch of songs written and the guys are currently learning them. We have no time frame set yet but I don’t think this year is realistic. There is no real rush either, it’ll be done when it’s done. Stylistically I think we’re taking a natural step further from “Väsen”. I have some parts that are more heavy metal influenced perhaps and some leaning towards death metal. But in the end everything will sound “Grá”, as always.
– What is the songwriting and the recording process of GRA being like?
Andreas: Generally I
compose the songs and make demos in my studio. Then we set a date and start
recording when everybody is ready. It is really as simple as that. I do the
after work with editing mixing and mastering.
For a few songs I have been sitting together with Dimman and we have been composing together. He is good at finding atmospheres and come with good ideas which I transform into riffs on the guitar and keyboard. Regarding lyrics it differs very much from song to song. Sometimes I have a theme and write the song around it, other times the lyrics comes later and put the knife in the heart of the song. Or the nail in the coffin if you will.
– When you came for the first time in Greece with DARK FUNERAL, back in 2016, there was a very big surprise when we saw that Kostas Bigalis (Greece’s 80s pop idol) came to see you playing live! Can you tell us when was this friendship born and how did it happen?
Andreas: Well we have a mutual friend that introduced us and we ended up talking about music for ages. Then we exchanged numbers and whenever I’m in Greece we try to set something up. Last year I went to see him and Mando Stamatopoulou at Kyttaro. He’s a really nice guy and we both have open minds. We were laughing hard at all the commotion we stirred up in Greece with that photo we posted from Thessaloniki when I was there playing with Grá. We played upstairs and he had a gig at the downstairs venue. Evil has no boundaries as a very good band once sung.
– You are also involved in DOMGARD and CURSED 13. What is the current status of those bands?
Andreas: Well “was” would
fit better. I left Domgård in 2014 to leave room for someone who could be more
active. I already had Dark Funeral, Grá and Cursed 13 and lived 500km from the
rest of the band.
Cursed 13 I retired in 2018, after having it going for 20 years. It felt like it was time to do so as I couldn’t give it the attention it deserved. The “Into Ashes” single and gig at Mörkaste Småland became the swansong for the band.
Domgård are still active though and we are very close friends.
I had a bunch of ideas and half finished songs for a Cursed 13 album but a lot of it ended up on “Väsen” and I think some other pieces will find a place on the next Grá album. Or on my own recordings, who knows.
– Recently you have started Heljarmadr Productions, can you tell us some details about that? Any major bands signed at your company?
Andreas: Well Heljarmadr Productions isn’t a traditional record label as some people have misunderstood it as. I did release a Grá cassette under the name and will release more music but it’s a collective company mainly for me as a musician. I have a photo book in the pipeline for example. Later a Cd single will be released, my solo debut. A few days ago I launched a new website, www.heljarmadr.com. Heljarmadr Productions is a project under construction.
I do get some demo submissions because people think it’s a normal label but it’s not. I think I would be a crappy record label boss as I have too many opinions and would completely interfere with the artistic freedom that I cherish so much myself.
I also do some studio work for underground bands around the world so if you want something mixed/mastered/produced/whatever, feel free to contact me. I produced/recorded/mixed/mastered the US band Veiled’s album “Black Celestial Orbs” for example. Ended up playing the bass on the album too which was a nice experience and a great symbol of trust. The frame for Heljarmadr Productions are held very open so only time will tell what will come from it in the future…
– Where does your inspiration comes from, when you are the composer for both music and lyrics?
Andreas: I really hate this question as it’s totally impossible to answer. Many times great lyrics were not written because I didn’t have a pen, and many riffs because I didn’t have a guitar, at hand. So where does it come from? Books, movies, music, life, Christian idiots you wanna nail to the cross, the rhythm of a car alarm and so on. The answer is everywhere, at any time. Whenever the mind is open for creativity.
– Is “Satanism” and “esotericism” an important way of living for you, or is it just an image that matches with the music?
Andreas: Well this is also
a very “big” subject that would take books to explain, books that constantly
change depending on mood and impressions from the surroundings. Satanism for me
is the antidote to stupidity and self indulged slavery. Use your own fucking
mind instead of following others. I am totally against all forms of collective
doctrine. There is a great difference between spirituality and religion. The
first express freedom of mind and body and the latter the diametral opposite.
For me black metal has always been about being your own leader, not a follower. I encourage personal spiritual development, learn from others but don’t swallow the bait and become a follower.
– What should we expect in the near future from GRA and DARK FUNERAL?
Andreas: Grandeur and excellence, for the glory of Satan! New music is in the making for both bands. And as soon as this shit it over we are getting back on stages around the globe to give the finger to the world once again. Most of the gigs affected from this Covid-19 bullshit have been postponed, not cancelled so we will strike again, harder than ever.
– Thank you very much for your time Andreas! Anything else you would like to mention? The last words are yours…
Andreas: Thank you for the support and interest! Like the mantra has been lately, the best ways to support your favourite bands are to make merch and album purchases. There’s a lot going on in the background for Dark Funeral, Grá and now also Heljarmadr Productions so stay updated on the social media channels.
Interview: Nikos Manousis
Cover Artwork: Chrysa Antoniadi
Design & Editing: Alexandros Soultatos
Photos: Soile Siirtola, David Kareketo, Michaela Barkensj, Anne Catherine Swallow
Date: April 9th 2020
External Link: DARK FUNERAL – Official Page
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