Helheim have been together for about 5 years now and after their debut demo "Nird ok Nordr Liggr Helvergr", they were picked up by Solistitium Records, who released "Jormundgang" and, most recently, "Av Norrøn Ætt", Helheim's second full length CD. Vanargandr tells us more about the album and also about Helheim's concept and its foundations...
(A small excerpt from the interview featured in full on Dark Oath #6)
There's another band with a name similar to yours in Norway and with rather extreme, right-wing, views. Does it bother you to have another band 'wear' the same name than you, especially since their views are apparently rather different from yours? Have you ever been mistaken, and because of that armed in some way, for the Helheim (Society) and where did your name came from, anyway? Why is it so important to you and what does it mean?
We don't mind anymore. We will let people know about the true Helheim, namely US. Yes, mistakes have occurred, but nothing that affects us badly. Helheim is taken from the Norse mythology and it consists of 9 realms, it's the realm of the dead. The name fits us perfectly, and it has a good sound to it, if you know what I mean.
What lead you to choose Viking topics as the subject upon which to build the whole concept of Helheim? Did you had this Viking-based concept in mind when you started the band in the beginning or did that came later?
This term is very interesting for us, and it is also pre-historic and highly connected with our fatherland, Norway. In our first demo named "Helheim" (no longer available) we had an image based on witches, but we found Norse mythology much more interesting.
How do you interpret the appearance of reappearance of all the 'alternative' religions/ cults/ sects popping up these days? Personally I think that many of them require a certain degree of self-control and responsibility that several people do not possess, would you agree?
These 'alternative' religions and whatever are being put together by people who are bored by today's religions, or/and have nothing else to do with their worthless lives other than poison other people with their own self-made shit. Self-control or not, they can all piss-off. (Well, actually, I think it's a quite profitable way of making some extra cash... I'm thinking of raising some sort of sect these days myself, hehe... Donations accepted, of course! - Ed.)
Lets get back to the music itself now... Your second album has recently seen the light of day, bringing with it several changes to what you were doing on "Jormundgang". Could you tell me a bit about the changes that occurred with "Av Norrøn Ætt"? Your sound overall became 'clearer', is that due to the production only or was this something that you decided yourselves? Why have you dropped the high-pitched screaming, by the way?
We wanted a more majestic sound combined with music. More melody lines with calmness, mixed with Helheim's pure brutality. Also more Heavy Metal-ish riffs were added to make the variation satisfying. We wanted a CD with a lot of variation so that it would not turn out to be boring. And also to have a killer, WORLD CLASS, CD, and it sure is. The clearer sound was used as a way of letting the melody lines be heard much more easily. We decided this ourselves. The sound itself was created and thought and discussed before recording, especially the dynamic part of the sound, and it turned out great. We dropped the high screaming voices because it simply didn't fit on this recording, but it will be added in the future.
Since the lyrics are mostly inspired by mythology, should one see a hint of truth in them or take a lesson out of them? Would you consider your art as a suitable vehicle to spread Scandinavian/Viking culture? What should a particular tale have in order to serve as inspiration for an Helheim lyric?
Take a lesson and some common sense out of them. Yes, maybe we are a suitable vehicle, I don't know, I haven't thought about it. About what a tale should have in order to inspire me it's impossible to say. That changes from time to time, right now I'm writing my own tale for Helheim's third full-length album.
Helheim "Av Norrøn Ætt"
CD 1997 Solistitium 7 songs, 55'
Damn, it seems like the man really strained his voice on the recordings of "Jormundgang", so much so that he seems to be gasping for air on the vocals used for the intro on this new album, a somewhat Folk-flavored piano piece completed with violin arrangements. Overall, I would say that Helheim have pretty much simplified their approach, arrangements-wise, for this 2nd album of theirs, as only a few pieces feature the short uncommon bits that prospered on the debut. Helheim didn't concern themselves with fitting cliches but have instead worked on something that stands for its own quality; still, personally, I do miss the orchestral arrangements that "Jormundgang" introduced, as those have been completely dropped and replaced for some didgeridoo (or whatever the fuck this thing is!), piano, trombone and violin bits here and there. On the other hand, a nice soprano female singer gives her contribution to a few of the atmospheric bits of the album. The band's Black Metal, or Black Viking Metal, if you like, has become quite unique and Helheim have pretty much developed their own style since their debut, leaving the Enslaved resemblances behind (perhaps not totally yet, I think...). For "Av Norrøn Ætt", they went for a clearer sound on the production that allows guitars to cut sharply instead of the buzzing sound of yore; this might take away some of the rawness of their music, but on the other hand it gives it a much bigger impact. The vocals are now slightly lower pitched and often bring some epic chanting as well, a bit like those of In the Woods..., perhaps, and the songs have become quite fluent with plenty of tempo variation to keep them interesting, even if a bit technical at times, and pleasantly harmonic, as guitars and bass combine skillfully in delivering great melodies. Finally, a few Folkish riffs and rhythms as well as plenty of catchy riffs help make "Av Norrøn Ætt" a varied and pleasant listen. Great work. Solistitium P. O. Box 1210 26 802 MOORMERLAND Germany.