About Me

Interview with Bismarck

Black Metal may be grand in Norway but it isn’t the only genre played there… Bismarck are one of the exceptions to the rule and are doing a phenomenal work. After their debut with the brutal “Urkraft” in 2018, the band is about to release their latest album “Oneiromancer”. Bassist and lyricist Anders Vaage spoke with Metal Imperium and assured us that the new album surpasses the previous one, so stay tuned and read the interview here.

M.I. - Tell us a bit about the band’s name. What does it stand for?

It’s something we came up with pretty early on, we were into late 1800s German aesthetics back then. The name is taken from the German chancellor but it isn’t meant to be a tribute to him as a person or whatever he did, it just sounds heavy and fits our music well.

M.I. - With all the bands around, why did you feel the need to create Bismarck? What has Bismarck got to offer?

You tell me! We never felt the world needed us or anything, we’re just friends making music and decided to put it out at some point to see if anybody liked it. Apparently, people did and here we are.

M.I. - The band has been in the spotlight ever since its formation… Why has that happened? Do you believe being Norwegian has granted you a cult status that you wouldn’t have if you weren’t?

I don’t think so. When it comes to stoner doom, I think Norwegian bands struggle more than, say, American and British bands, even Swedish bands. The black metal fans coming to Norway each year for the big metal festivals want that whole true Norwegian black metal package and don't care much about the sort of music we play. We need to take our music abroad in order to reach a wider audience. 

We did get some attention pretty early on and a lot of it came from people who weren’t that into stoner, sludge, doom, even metal. They told us we sounded heavier than pretty much anything they’d heard, and in a very different way. What we were aiming for I guess. 

M.I. - The band’s inspired by a wide array of genres and styles - from amp melting stoner-doom, to 60s and 70s psychedelic rock, the Norwegian black metal and Middle Eastern folk music… Name a few bands/albums that have influenced Bismarck in their sound.

A lot of stuff really. On this album we were very into Middle Eastern music, Kurdish in particular. I could mention Shahram Nazeri and Seyed Khalil Alinezhad as two musicians who got us into the tradition, and we went further on from there to Sufi music, North African etc. As for the more obvious influences, we were listening to anything from the new The Body, Sunn O))) and Sleep albums that came out while we were recording, to like old Pantera and Mayhem. We were also “rediscovering” Isis’ prime albums, which had been in the drawer for a long time.  

M.I. - Bismarck’s uncompromising, sludgy riff mantras and psychedelic escapades have been stirring things up in the Norwegian underground after the band released the acclaimed debut album “URKRAFT” in August 2018. How’s it being a “different” band in Norway? Playing a style that’s not so common there? 

There are a few bands doing sort of the same thing we do, but not quite. We fall between two chairs a lot of the time; too stoner for post metal people, too post metal for stoner purists, vocals being too brutal for the Sabbath worshippers, while too slow and sludgy for the extreme metal crowd. However, a lot of people - the less puristic I guess - seem to appreciate the eclecticism.

M.I. - What attracted Bismarck to doom metal?

I guess that would be a question for each individual band member. We were all into the same sort of music when we first got together. Not necessarily doom metal, strictly speaking, more like slow, heavy, drony, repetitive music. We started jamming and it came out the way it did. 

M.I. - You released “Urkraft” in 2018 and recorded “Oneiromancer” in 2019… where does all the creativity come from? Didn’t you feel the need to take a break and recharge your batteries?

Actually, “Urkraft” had been in the making for a long time when it came out, so some of the tunes dated back to the first rehearsals we ever had three years earlier. So we had a lot of new material for a new album and asked Chris Fielding of Conan, who mixed our first album, if he was interested in producing it. He was, and helped us piece together an album from what we had. The overwhelming response we got from “Urkraft” was also very inspiring to us. When you get the feeling that you’re on to something, it makes it all the easier to build on top of that. 

M.I. - Some fans think it is hard to top “Urkraft”… what can we expect of “Oneiromancer”? In your opinion, will it top the previous album or not?

We think it tops “Urkraft”. The second album is always difficult, that’s a well-known fact, but I personally think we’ve progressed a lot and made exactly what we set out to do. When we made “Urkraft” we didn’t have a clue, it was just a bunch of tunes that we’d made and we spent a lot of time trying to make it sound somewhat coherent post production. It came out well, though, and we’re proud of the result, but the process of making it was pretty chaotic. “Oneiromancer” is more thought through, both the material and the production, and it sounds massive!

M.I. - A oneiromancer is someone who divines through the interpretation of dreams. Why have you chosen this word to be the title of your new album?

I came up with that a good while ago, before writing any of the lyrics. I was having some bizarre dreams at the time and, puzzled by it all, I started reading about dream interpretation. “Oneiromancy” came up in a book I read, and it seemed like a perfect title for the new album. It became theme for the lyrics too.

M.I. - The new single “The Seer” has the image of a phoenix. What’s its meaning?

It’s a simurgh actually, which was considered a purifier of the world in ancient Persian religion. The lyrics are visions of the old world destroyed in purifying war and a new world reborn, so the simurgh represents that.

M.I. - “The Seer” was released on the 19th February… how have the reactions to it been so far?

We’ve heard nothing but good things so far. People really seem to like the new sound.

M.I. - What’s the meaning of the flaming mouth on the cover of the album?

It is a Persian magi with holy fire bursting out from within.

M.I. - The first track is titled “Tahaghghogh Resalat”… I’ve googled it but couldn’t find a translation. I believe the language used there is Farsi but what does it represent in the album’s context?

It’s the pinglish title, that is, Farsi written in Latin characters. It means “the prophecy/mission is fulfilled” and is pointing back to “The Usher”, the last track on “Urkaft”.

M.I. - The album’s first track was performed entirely in Farsi by the very talented guest vocalist Armin Amookhteh. Why have you decided to use a track in this language?

As I mentioned above, the title refers to the “The Usher” which has a very Middle Eastern feel to it and we wanted to pick up where we left things on the last album. We thought it would be cool to take it even further and have the vocals on the opening track sung in a Middle Eastern language. I have a friend from Iran who helped me translate the lyrics and after searching high and low for an Iranian singer we found Armin. He came to the studio we were using in Bergen and improvised the entire thing on the spot. It was truly one of those great recording moments!

M.I. - Taking the title of the album in consideration and the title of the songs as well, can one assume the topics addressed in the lyrics are all linked to dreams and predictions? 

Indeed they are, but not in a conceptual way. There isn’t a coherent narrative, more of a red thread. Also, ancient mythology, Persian in particular, is a recurrent theme. 

M.I. - How superstitious are Bismarck?

(Laughts), probably a lot more than we like to admit.

M.I. - Do you believe in supernatural powers? If you could choose one supernatural power, what would it be and why?

Whatever Tony Iommi has!

M.I. - Your producer @hailconan ‘s Chris has been kind enough to lend you his monstrous voice for the heaviest backing vocals ever recorded… how did you come up with the idea?

Well, he sounds like a minotaur and since we had him in the studio anyway, we couldn’t let the opportunity go. Him and our singer Torstein together is beyond brutal.

M.I. - The band’s worked with the amazing talents of Chris Fielding of @skyhammer_studio and Leif Herland of @polyfon_studio. Why did you use two different studios? 

We had a lot of ideas for this album and spent almost 6 months recording it. Since Chris is based in England and we’re based in Norway it was more convenient to split it up and record some bits here and some bits there. Basically, Chris recorded the foundation - the drums, the guitar and bass stacks - and the more experimental parts were recorded here. Finally, we did the mixing in Skyhammer.  

M.I. - Both your album covers include “waves”… wiggly lines… is it a way to have a connection between the two albums or what? 

That’s an interesting observation. It’s not intentional on our part, and we’ve used different designers on “Urkraft” and “Oneiromancer”. But you never know; if you play our records as loud as you should it would be more or less impossible to draw a straight line.

M.I. - You have several gigs planned for this year. Where will you play? Any chances of coming to Portugal?

Invite us and we’ll come! Portugal is a beautiful place.

M.I. - If you could choose the bands to go on tour with you, which bands would you choose and why?

Well, it depends on where we find our audience. In a dream scenario, Electric Wizard, Earth, Sleep and a reunited Isis would head out on a tour together and decide to bring us along! But more realistically, we should be doing something with Conan soon. It always works better if you get along on a social level as well as musically.

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

To be honest, not really, apart from Moonspell, of course. We would like to be, though, there’s probably an interesting underground scene going on that we don’t know about.

M.I. - Share your final thoughts with Metal Imperium’s readers please.

I guess it would be to stay safe and healthy above all in these crazy times. If you are, remember to check out our album when it comes out on April 17. If you’re into vinyl, be sure to pre-order the awesome gold with black splatter limited edition from our Bandcamp or Apollon Records before they’re all gone!

For Portuguese version, click here.

Questions by Sónia Fonseca