About Me

Interview with Helheim

Norway continues on surprising us with awesome Black Metal acts. Though Helheim are no newcomers to the scene, they seem somewhat neglected by it... "Rignir" their 10th album is here to prove us that they deserve the spotlight! Metal Imperium talked to Vgandr about the new album and tour. Read on...

M.I. - Helheim have been around for 27 years and many Norwegian bands that got formed in the 90’s are still alive and kicking these days. Do you have any idea of the formula for all this success? 

No, not really. The only thing I’m certain of is that Helheim is a band of brothers. It’s important for us to enjoy what we’re doing and feel that we’re creative. All the ideas of becoming a huge band is way past us and we are quite at ease with whom we are as a band. We listen to each other and respect each other. There’s no ego tripping and such childish stuff. We don’t have a big machinery behind us that can pull us to either direction. We are the creative source and, luckily, we follow a path in unity instead of segregated. If all this is key points to the success of staying together as a band, then I’m at ease with that. But I guess different bands have different opinions. Every entity is different.

M.I. - This year Helheim will release its 10th full-length “Rignir” and, according to the band, “this was by far the most intriguing album we’ve done thus far. Expect the unexpected!”. What do you mean by this exactly?

In many ways it was the album that required a next step for us. This goes especially vocally. But also the way we created some of the songs as for example Rignir and Snjova. They are quite different in many ways, and it took a lot of time to make these (as well as the others) sounds the way we wanted them to sound. The whole lyrical concept was also the most time consuming I’ve ever done thus far.

M.I. - The album consists of 8 tracks and you’ve written lyrics inspired in the ljóðaháttr, an Old Norse alliterative verse form used largely in the Eddas. How complicated was it transforming them into songs?

The music is created with no thought of the lyrics in mind and vice versa. They are separate entities that are put together after everything’s ready. The lyrics were really hard to write since they all had to follow a certain rhythmical pattern, and the fact is that every lyric could go to any song on the album since they all follow a certain pattern. We did swap the songs around for different lyrics until we felt comfortable with which song fitted which lyric.

M.I. - Which one do you like best the Prose Edda or the Poetic Edda? In which did you base the lyrics more in?

I have no favourite. I basically used Håvamål as the spring board for the alliterative verse form. 

M.I. - All the title tracks of Rignir come up as being Danish or Icelandic because Edda is a Medieval Icelandic literary work. Are you fluent in these languages? 

No, not at all. None of the titles are in Danish, though. They are all in the Norse language, or old Icelandic if you may. I can read Danish as if it were Norwegian, but when they talk it can be hard sometimes. Norwegian, Swedish and Danish are actually just dialects of each other. The borders creates the separation from dialect to language. Icelandic is hard to understand even though we used to speak more or less like that ages ago. The titles of the album are in old Norse, but the lyrics are written in Norwegian and sung in our Bergen dialect. 

M.I. - One needs to go back to 2003 and 2006 in order to see albums/tracks with titles in English. Is this a conscious choice? Do you express yourselves better in other languages or do they fit better your lyrical themes?

Back then it came to a point where I was fed up with writing in Norwegian. I wanted to express myself differently. Then I got fed up with English and have never returned to that language. I now feel quite at ease with only writing in Norwegian and can’t imagine returning to the English language. 

M.I. - What’s the meaning of the blue symbol on the cover?

Blue represents the cold. The symbol can represent a drop of rain as well as the seven mountains of Bergen which are quite rainy.

M.I. - The band will be touring with Madder Mortem and Vulture Industries. What are your expectations? 

I have high expectations to that tour. I mean, we’re good friends with the Vulture lads, and though we don’t know the Madder humans we have heard nice stuff about them. I think it will be a quite relaxed tour in many ways. The days of going completely whack on tour are more or less over (except for some occasions, haha). When it comes to the attendance I’m more skeptical as all bands are quite small and don’t have the biggest crowd of followers. It’s important to be realistic and lower ones’ expectations on certain things or you may get disappointed. I’d rather be positively surprised by having low expectations than vice versa. When that is said we will of course always give the crowd attending their money worth. As long as the right energy and atmosphere is in the crowd it doesn’t matter if it’s 50 or 500.

M.I. - How fun is it being on the road? Do you enjoy it as much as you did 20 years ago?

I don’t know, to be honest as memories are treacherous. What I can say is that I try to take care of myself a bit more. I’m not 20 anymore and I can feel that. I’m not saying I’m old or anything, but of course being 41 feels different than 18-19. When thinking about it I guess certain aspects may have been more adventurous back in the days. Everything was new, you know. These days nothing’s new. Today the focal point is different, I guess. When this is said, touring is not vital for me, but playing live is. 

M.I. - Sadly, there are no Portuguese dates included on the tour. Have you ever played here? If so, what did you think of the Portuguese audience? If not, would you like to come here?

I’ve only been to Portugal with Taake. We played the Barroselas. That was a great festival and would like to return there with either band. Portuguese people were extremely nice and friendly. I really mean that. So open and helpful. It really made me feel welcome. Goddamn, we have to come to Portugal. 

M.I. - Are you familiar with the Portuguese metal scene?

I’m afraid I’m not. As far as I know I only know one band and it’s so obvious which band I’m talking about that I won’t say their name.

M.I. - If you could travel back in time… which advice would you give to yourself 20 years ago? Why?

Don’t listen to me. I’m full of shit, ha ha ha. 

M.I. - The band’s been around for over 25 years now… did you achieve all the goals you had when you formed Helheim? What’s left for Helheim to achieve?

Yes, and more. We’re all very fortunate with how things have been going for us and I don’t wanna complain about anything as I don’t wanna whine. We’ve done some strange and wrong choices, but that is the course of events. Wrongdoings may cause a positive after effect. You learn and grow from your mistakes. If you choose to always look backwards in despair and repent it can be almost impossible to grow in the future. At least that’s my philosophy. There’s nothing left to achieve other than to continue doing what we’re doing and that is to push our limits for every record we create. Our passion to create absorbs the mundane ideas of what it may achieve. That’s secondary at best. Total focus and dedication require to become blind to distractions around you. We go into a creative hibernation where nothing else matters than our own creative workspace.

M.I. - Many thanks for your time. Hope you have a blast on the tour. I wish you all the success with “Rignir” and hopefully you’ll come down to sunny Portugal one day. 
Leave a message to the readers of Metal Imperium please.

Thanks a lot, Sonia. We really hope the opportunity may arise one day for Helheim to explore and play Portugal. I hope there are some Portuguese people that have heard of us, if not it may be about time as you might discover something you like. I’ll end this interview by quoting myself; Heathendom is resistance!

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Sónia Fonseca