Playing for the Horde

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A one-word album title. Two band members gone, and in their place, the addition of three guest vocalists, booming choirs and a massive orchestra. And then of course, those white leather and fur costumes. Yeah, it’s been an exciting and unpredictable time for Dimmu Borgir. I sat down with Galder sat down before their show in Denver (with countrymates Enslaved) to talk about the creation of their new epic Abrahadabra, the changes in the band’s sound and how to kill time on the road.

How’s the tour been?

Very good, we actually have two weeks left now.

Where did you have the best response so far?

Actually, that was in Canada, that was actually very crazy. In the States, L.A. was pretty good.

What about touring with Enslaved?

We toured in Europe together for this tour, but that was the first time. They’re awesome guys, really crazy.

Have you followed their work over the years?

Yeah, they’ve always been in the scene in Norway, so you can’t really miss what they have been doing, you know? So we have been paying close attention to them and checking out what they’re doing. And Enslaved has also been going on for many, many years now, so it’s cool to play with an old-school band.

Cool for us, ‘cause it’s a hell of a pair-up. Anyway, let’s get into the new album. What’s the concept behind Abrahadabra?

I don’t think there’s any certain concept behind it, it’s just a very personal album for us, it’s very much about Dimmu Borgir. It’s not really a concept album, you know, we did that on the last one. But Aleister Crowley had some influence on the lyrics, and just Dimmu Borgir itself as well, where we are with the band.

I think it’s your most bombastic album yet. You were already the premier symphonic black metal band on the planet, yet you were still able to take everything and crank it up to 11. So in order to do that, what specific sounds did you guys want to integrate this time around?

We definitely wanted to make it more epic than even Death Cult Armageddon. We wanted to top that, not just with orchestration but also with choirs and also a lot of sample work. This is definitely the biggest production we’ve ever done, and there is so much going on that you will probably notice new things on the 10th time you listen to the album. We also wanted it to be very diverse – a little slow here, little fast here – so no song sounds the same. I think it’s a very varied album – each song is different from the next.

That’s one of the things I called out in my review of the album – you guys have just nailed down how to pace an album, and there’s always a lot of diversity across the entire thing.

Yeah, we’re very careful that the music has ups and downs – if it just goes in a straight line, you know, it becomes boring. The trick is to play with the music, and I think we did that on this album, to take chances, you know, change the tempo in the middle of a song. Many people just use 1-2-3-4, all the way through, but we like to change it up. For some people, that breaks the laws of physics or whatever you call it, but for Dimmu, that’s the thing that works the best.

So are you guys into classical music, do you have your musical roots in that?

We all listen to some classical music but it’s not like we sit on the tour bus and listen to Beethoven, but I think every metal guy has some roots there. Writing leads is very classically inspired as well.

Putting your brand of metal together with orchestration must be complex, so what’s that writing process like?

Well, we use a lot of keyboards and then once we have that, that’s basically an orchestra, and then so we know that will pretty much work once we do have the real thing, because it’s live. So we try to balance it out so that when we use the orchestra, the guitars slow down, and then when it’s very technical guitars, we don’t put a lot of orchestration on top of that because it would make it chaotic. We plan it very carefully, with the right riff at the right place and just working very hard at it. There’s a lot of back and forth on any given song, maybe five or ten times.

Which ones?

Oh, all of them. We make a song, and we’re not happy with it, so we change it again. In the past, when we made a song it was pretty much done, and we didn’t fool around anymore with it, but this time we were really open-minded.

Did you have more time to iterate with this album or was the pressure on anyway?

Oh yeah, but of course there was still some pressure because there were some members not part of the process anymore, they sort of disappeared at the beginning, so it just made us work harder, to prove to ourselves that we could do it.

So does that mean that Mustis handled a lot of the orchestration before?

No, we had this guy, Gaute (Storaas) that arranged the stuff for us. Shagrath would make keyboard parts for us, Mustis would as well before, so would I, so then Gaute would transfer that into the orchestra and say who would play what, add some different chords, but you know, it was always made by us, the basic ideas.

Now, in addition to the new sounds on the album, one of the biggest changes was the appearance of female vocals. What inspired that choice and how did you find Agnete Kjølsrud?

Well, we just wanted to experiment a lot, and that was just one of those ideas, like hey, let’s try to use this girl – she has this real witchy voice, you know, and we knew that when we did that, it would be this drastic step that people would react to. But it turned out to be one of the best things that we did.

And it also turned into free press for you guys – I’m sure you saw the online conspiracy theories.

Yeah, of course, all that. But she just did an amazing job, really professional – she brought a lot of multi-layers and harmonies, and we just told her what we wanted and she did it. I think she did a very, very good job.

Did you only intend to use her on the one track?

Yeah, because we had so many guest singers, so we didn’t have too much of that. We also didn’t want to have just one personality for the vocals, so that’s why we had three different people.

Snowy Shaw and Garm being the other two?

Right.

How did those come about?

Basically the same, we felt we needed to have some clean vocals since that was also something from the past. On the next album we want to fool around with the choirs even more, to have a huge choir singing more stuff, because that’s always awesome. I think we’re maybe going more for that direction. Actually live now, we have a choir doing all the clean parts, and it sounds really good, so we know that this will work in the future as well.

Wow, I’m looking forward to hearing that tonight. Okay, costumes. I love the costumes, I think they’re amazing.
G: Yeah, that was another one of those crazy ideas, just doing something new, and I think if you want to go somewhere in this business, you have to take chances, you have to go in new directions. And you know, white leather and fur, that’s still pretty metal, it’s cold, like a caveman look – we wanted to create this magical look, to do something new but still keep it metal.

I think we actually pulled it off, and that’s a thing that people might need some time to get used to, but it seems to work well live, and we feel comfortable wearing the clothes. I’m actually glad we took the chance and did something crazy.

Yeah, the black leather and the spikes was getting tired.

I’ve used those spikes for ten years, you know, so it’s good to try something different.

I think it would be great if you guys did that for every album, you know, pull a David Bowie and completely change it up again.

Yeah, you know, next album, it might be something completely different. You have to have fun when you make music, and the covers, and fool around with different ideas. As long as you stay true to the spirit of metal and the band itself.

It was totally metal, you guys looked like sorcerors. Like out of a fantasy painting.

Yeah, exactly.

Okay, you know what, I didn’t know if I’d be speaking to you or not, but since you’re here, what’s going on with Old Man’s Child?

Well, right now I’m having a little break, I’m done with the contracts and figuring out what to do, but I’m a very impatient guy and my fingers are starting to itch, so you know, we’ll just see how it goes. Right now I’m just very busy with touring and stuff, so if I’m going to do another Old Man’s Child album, I need some time off to focus and put 100% into that.

Is it difficult for you to partition ideas that you have, you know, say that this is for Dimmu, or this, I really want to keep this for Old Man’s Child?

You know, I’ve tried to make Old Man’s Child a bit more guitar-oriented, a bit more thrashy. So if I had a slow riff, something more epic, I would probably use it for Dimmu, more technical and thrashy I might use it for Old Man’s, but it can vary.

Cool, looking forward to it if it happens. So I wanted to talk a bit more about the Spellemanprisens, you guys are essentially Grammy winners.

Yeah, four times.

That’s amazing, ‘cause this kind of music is not exactly mainstream in the US, but how is it in Norway you guys get that kind of recognition so often?

Well, it’s a lot better than it used to be, I mean when black metal was at its biggest, so to speak, in the 90s, you weren’t on TV and you weren’t on the radio, but now it seems that you can be on a television show and – well, actually we were on the news just before we came here, like on the morning news, you know?

In the costumes, or just dressed as you are? (Note: Galder is just kicking back in a Dimmu hoodie and black pants).

Oh no, just dressed like this. But it’s a lot more house-clean now, you know? How can it not be? It’s (black metal) the biggest musical export from Norway, so people just need to accept it for what it is and be proud of it. It also does a lot of good for Norway, gives them a good reputation when it comes to metal.

So have you guys ever taken advantage of the government support of the arts in Norway?

No, we are probably too big to get that, but I know of many other bands who get that support. Norway’s pretty good about that, if you play in a garage band, they want to help you out.

And all of the cultural furor around black metal in the early 90s, that’s pretty much gone away at this point?

Yeah, but the scene is also a little bit nicer now, you know, compared to what it used to be, you don’t have the church burnings or the murders anymore, so it’s more acceptable for the people. You know, all of our family members are very supportive now, they think it’s cool we’re doing all the concerts and stuff.

Is Norway pretty secular?

Ehh, it’s still pretty Christian.

Nominally? Or do people practice often?

Well, I think everyone is sort of Christian but it’s not like they go to church every Sunday, I think that’s very rare. But it’s generally, I would say, a very Christian country. But it’s maybe not so extreme as you have in parts of the States.

So, back to the tour, just some fluff questions for fun. You guys are on the road a lot, what are you doing to kill time?

Not really that much man, right now I mostly sit backstage playing videogames.

What are you playing?

World of Warcraft. It kills a lot of time.

Yeah, I know. You rolling Goblin or Worgen next week?

Yeah, that’s what I’m waiting for. There’s actually several people on the crew and in the band who do it too, we go on raids and stuff.

That’s hilarious. What are you?

Oh, I have a Warlock. An Orc, level 78. Trying to get him to 80.

I kinda figured Dimmu Borgir wouldn’t play Alliance.

Well, I actually did that too, I have thirteen characters.

Most of them Horde though.

Yeah, of course.

Comments

  1. Commented by: Jodi

    Good read. I shouldn’t be surprised that you guys talked about WoW. (Warlocks ftw)

    Would be nice to see/hear some new Old Man’s Child material.


  2. Commented by: Travis

    Great interview. Who knew that Galder was such a geek?


  3. Commented by: faust666

    Great piece, thanks !!


  4. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Great interview. 13 characters? Not even Corpsegrinder has that many! :P
    Can’t bring myself to like MMORPGs but more power to youse peoples who do.
    Galder seems like a nice guy. Did you interview Enslaved as well, Jordan?


  5. Commented by: Gabaghoul

    Thanks guys. Yeah, we’ll be posting the Grutle one soon. And yes, Galder was really cool, they both were.


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