Unpretentious musical Nihilism
It wouldn't be a stretch to observe that the black metal scene, even if localized in North America alone, is endless. So the big question is: Amidst the confusing multitude, which band deserves our attention? Nattsvargr do. These New York state natives have a substantial discography behind them that continues to grow with the release of this year's 'Vinterblod'. Released on March, 'Vinterblod' is half an our of stripped down unpretentious musical Nihilism loaded with frenzied guitar play and enough wintry atmosphere to chill the blood. Speaking to yours truly is the ever croaksome vocalist Noctir who expounds on all matters blasphemous, divine, and extreme.
AM: Nattsvargr. It just rolls right off your tongue. What is it?
Noctir: It is the combination of two Old Norse words, meaning something along the lines of nocturnal wolf. The essence of the night is something that has long been significant for me, going back to my earliest years. As for the wolf, it represents opposition to the sheep-like mentality of the masses; in particular, as it relates to the Judeo-Christian scum that inhabits much of the western world. It stands for the open eye in a sea of the blind; a mind capable of critical thinking, in a world where very few ever stop to think about anything or to question that which is going on around them.
AM: It's just the two of you. When did it all begin?
Noctir: Werewolf and I came into contact in early 2007, during the winter months. Nattsvargr has its roots in a previous band which was put to rest for some time and then later resurrected under a new name, but it took some time for the right pieces to fall into place and to get to the point where we are now.
AM: You're from Guilderland, New York. What makes your slice of the world special? What would I see in your hometown if I ever visit?
Noctir: Guilderland is a small town that is part of the greater Capital District, joined to Albany. There is nothing remarkable about this area, for the most part. It is a city in decay. If not for the abundance of old cemeteries and vast forests, I would have nothing positive to say at all about this place.
AM: You actually have four albums under your belts plus this new 'Vinterblod'. What makes your brand of raw, minimalist black metal stand apart from the rest?
Noctir: 'Vinterblod' is only the second full-length album for Nattsvargr and it marks a great improvement over the previous release in every conceivable manner. As for standing out, I can definitely say that there is a strong contrast between Nattsvargr and every other USBM band that I have been exposed to. Our music places the utmost value on the guitar riffs, giving the melodies room to breathe and to create the intended atmosphere. A lot of times, you find that American bands are unable to give up their death metal roots, as this is what many were into prior to making black metal. There is an emphasis on "brutality" and annoying break-downs that dominates the sound and leaves little or no room for the guitar melodies. In my eyes, many of them are merely death metal bands with stolen black metal aesthetics. Then, there is the other side of the coin; the infinite number of one-man depressive black metal projects that you find in the USBM scene. Suddenly, everyone believes that they are as brilliant as Varg Vikernes and that they will become the new Burzum. Actually, I hear more of a Strid influence in some of these, except with highly distorted vocals that possess no feeling. Nattsvargr is not drowning in digital effects. The sound is raw and stripped-down, as it should be. And, of course, there are bands of both styles that go to great lengths to prove how Satanic they are. For me, Satan is a symbolic figure, standing as the opposer of the Great Lie of Judeo-Christian mythology. This false religion is something that I have a strong hatred for!
By the same token, I could in no way attempt to strengthen its supposed validity by claiming to believe in the literal existence of a horned devil. I see many that believe the lie and think that this mythology is, in fact, history and reality; however, their stance is that they support the "villain" in the story. They waste countless hours studying occult texts that are often written by Jews, and expend energy in their studies as well as the way in which they live their lives. Anyone with even a rudimentary background in history and/or theology can, easily, see the natural evolution of the Judeo-Christian mythology, as it was formed by picking bits and pieces from the mythologies of surrounding people. In particular, this utter nonsense regarding the fictional character known as Jesus is beyond sickening. It is amazing that people are so mindless that, even in this day and age, this Jewish cult endures. Not only that, but people routinely choose to ignore facts and even common sense, because it contradicts their feeble beliefs.
AM: Can you break down your discography so far and point out the merits of each Nattsvargr release?
Noctir: 'Morbid Night of Melancholy' (2007) was the first step on the path that has brought us to where we are now. This demo was the first collaboration between Werewolf and myself, and is seen as the birth of the band as it is now known. These songs were then used for our first album. 'Winds of Transilvania' (2009) still maintains the variation that was found on the demo, and explores other facets of our sound. In many ways, it was like a journey to discover who we were as a band and to ascertain what worked and what didn't, within our own limitations. It has its positive points, but I feel that the greatest impact that it had was to leave me dissatisfied enough that I pushed Werewolf and myself to waste no time in working on a new album. I never felt that our first album reached its full potential, and it was very much a product of the chaotic time period in which it was recorded. With 'Vinterblod' (2010), we were very focused and worked closer together than on the previous album. I presented him my vision of what I wanted to achieve with this and we were on the same page, throughout the entire process. 'Vinterblod' is much more than a mere collection of songs. It is much more cohesive than its predecessor in sound and theme.
AM: How long did it take to write and compose the songs on 'Vinterblod'?
Noctir: The concept was born in late October. As we began to work, we were contacted to take part in a split album, so the first songs were finished by November. We took a break and then began writing songs again by the end of December. Final recording took place in February, and everything was finished by the first week of March.
AM: Can you trace your evolution as a song writer? How did you teach yourself to construct vocal melodies (at least vocal lines) and conceptual pieces?
Noctir: Musically, there are often times when a melody will arise within my mind, and I do what I can to bring it to life. In the case of one of the songs on the new album, I simply picked up my guitar and began playing and the song came together within a few minutes. Of course, my skills as a guitarist leave a lot to be desired, so I was fortunate that Werewolf was able to take my crude song and bring it out of the darkness and into the light, so to speak.
Vocally, I've always been more likely to simply go with what feels most natural. However, for 'Vinterblod', I began to put more thought into the placement of the vocals. There were several occasions where I purposely went against my first instinct, regarding timing; i.e. when to begin each line, whether or not to drag it out, etc. A few times, it seemed a bit awkward, but in the end it helped to add a dynamic that would not have existed, otherwise. I see the vocals as yet another instrument to accentuate the overall atmosphere of the song, so it was important to put a lot of thought into this.
AM: What is it like when the two of you are working on music together? Do you feel re-energized every time you nail a song?
Noctir: For the most part, we must work from a distance. This makes things more difficult, to a degree. Yet we work so well together that it posed no real problem at all, aside from the time it took to re-record a couple things, during the initial songwriting process. As I said, we came into this with a set goal in mind, so we both knew exactly what it would take to accomplish this.
As each song that was completed was another step toward the realization of our vision. Once one was finished, we would review it and make sure it was to our liking and then move on to the next.
AM: Honestly now, how would you rate your capabilities as a musician? How far does Nattsvargr have to go before every note you play feels like second nature?
Noctir: As I am answering this alone, I will have to say that I would rate Werewolf quite highly as a musician. He has written some brilliant riffs and has shown a remarkable capacity to take an idea that exists in words only and to make it a musical reality. If ever I feel something needs to be altered in any way, he makes the appropriate changes with ease.
AM: What recording software does Nattsvargr use?
Noctir: I know that the Cubase and Audacity programs were used, at different points. Really, this isn't something that were genuinely concerned with. We simply used whatever was most convenient.
AM: How about the weapons in your arsenal? I mean gear. Band gear.
Noctir: Again, we used whatever was available. While there was a general idea of what the album should sound like, we were confident enough in our abilities to achieve this that we could have gotten the same results with any brand of guitar/amp/etc.
AM: Now that the finished product is at hand, are you noticing details that you would like to change or is 'Vinterblod' the epitome of completion?
Noctir: As a perfectionist, I will never be 100% satisfied with anything that I create. However, with that said, 'Vinterblod' has lived up to and exceeded my expectations. Once the album was completed, I listened to it a few dozen times to see if it was truly ready to be unleashed upon the world and I can say with full confidence that this is a good representation of Nattsvargr.
AM: How can feeble mortals lay hands on your music? Where can they go to buy copies?
Noctir: Right now, we have released the album through our own small label, Nocturnal Abyss Records. I am in talks with several labels with regard to giving the album a more proper release and better distribution. A lot of time and energy was put into this album. From the music to the lyrics and even the images; everything was well thought-out and holds a deep significance. It is important, to me, to see to it that the album is made available to as many people as possible.
AM: Do you guys actually like cold weather?
Noctir: Absolutely. I have a very low tolerance for heat, to begin with. I've also had a deep appreciation for autumn and winter since childhood. Maybe it has something to do with being born during this time. There is a mystical feeling that is ever-present in the autumn months, as the season of dying takes hold. As for winter, I find it to be a very pure and calm time. Many get the "winter blues", but I feel just the opposite. As the bitter cold winds return, my mood improves and I become more motivated. It is no coincidence that 'Vinterblod' was created during the autumn and winter months.
AM: Listening to the new Orphaned Land makes me feel I'm eating in a Middle Eastern restaurant. What albums are totally grabbing you by the balls at the moment?
Noctir: Typically, I am listening to older releases, but it happens that a couple bands have resurrected their careers and thus gained my attention once more. Aside from previewing the Nattsvargr album, endlessly, I have been listening to the latest Gorgoroth release quite a bit, as well as the last Nifelheim. And, just today, I received the new Burzum album in the mail. I've anticipated this release for a decade, and it is definitely living up to my expectations.
AM: Are there moments when you contemplate the future of recorded music? Where is Nattsvargr headed in the next few years?
Noctir: I wonder how much of an impact illegal downloading will have on the music industry, over time. People like to compare it to home taping and attempt to justify it, as the younger generation was brought up in the internet age, where everything you desire is merely a few keystrokes away. They seem to possess a sense of entitlement. If the problem becomes too severe, smaller record labels disappear. Larger ones reduce the number of bands signed or CDs manufactured. Budgets become smaller, so tours become less frequent and merchandise disappears as there is more difficulty in gauging how much support a band has; therefore, there is no clear picture on whether or not they'll get back their investment. So, downloading an album may not be like directly taking money from an artist;s pocket, but it can have long-term effects that will lead to the same result.
In an ideal situation, Nattsvargr would get signed by a decent label and be in a position to tour in support of our albums, get better distribution as well and maybe even a larger recording budget. As I see it, we've only just begun to build up momentum.
AM: How much music do you feed your ears on a daily basis? Do you still bother catching live bands?
Noctir: Music plays a large role in my daily life. It always has. I spend a lot of time still digging up lost gems from the past. There are so many bands out there that you really must take an active role in seeking out what it is that you want. I pay little attention to newer bands, honestly, but I figure that if they are worth hearing I'll run across them in a few years.
I don't get out much, these days. The last gig I caught was Watain, in late 2008. Before that, it was Celtic Frost, in 2006. It seems I'm due to be dragged out at some point this year.
AM: Waking up early for my daily commute to class is a major drag for me. I'm not a morning type, you see. What's making your life suck at the moment?
Noctir: In short, about 6.5 billion parasites that are long overdue for extermination.
AM: We've reached the end. Is writing and releasing your own music without ever taking it to the outside world a form of masturbation?
Noctir: Sometimes, creativity can be the ultimate goal in itself. It is catharsis for some.
Interviewed by Miguel Miranda.