Black metal veterans Dark Funeral are performing the black arts again...
It’s been a few years since I last spoke to Dark Funeral’s main man Lord Ahriman; and he’s been up to a lot since then. The band’s new album Where Shadows Forever Reign is about due for release and I immediately question his ability to keep coming up with the black metal goods. He reflects on the question before slowly answering “It’s always a constant struggle when you start writing a new record but I have my way of writing music and playing guitar; you have to dig deep in your soul. Everything I write I must feel too.” So do you find some of the stuff you come up with doesn’t always fit with your overall idea of the vibe of an album? Again, he’s slow to respond. It’s as if he’s weighing up all manner of considerations before he finally responds “Yes, of course – there are lots of riffs that I scrap. When I write a song every part has to have a strong impact on me and it’s got to feel right. I just go with the flow – it’s not like I’m thinking that it has to sound like this [or that] – I’m looking more for a feeling than what I actually do with the guitar. That’s the more important aspect of every riff and how the song turns out.”
We touch on Dark Funeral’s upcoming tour from May through to August, and he adds “Hopefully, we’ll continue with a club tour in October.” There are also plans for a bigger world-domination tour. “We will hopefully hit every corner of the world. I know we already have some shows confirmed in Japan so we’ll hit Asia. We’re working on a whole new world tour but this part of the year we’re gonna focus on Europe and then next year we’ll keep touring South America, the US, Asia, and Australia. We’ll see where we end up…” he’s still mad for the touring – well, the gig part anyway. “The touring, in itself, isn’t what I enjoy but that one and half hours on stage really gives you the energy; just sharing that energy with the crowd – that’s amazing. All those other hours on the tour, they’re kind of painful; all the travel and shit – that’s not the fun part – but the time on stage makes it all worth it. Nowadays, if there’s a chance, when we’re travelling the world, I try to go out and see/experience the world; it gives you a better energy to keep on touring. You need to find a better balance rather than just sitting back-stage waiting for your stage time. It’s kind of draining.”
At my last count Dark Funeral has had something like 17 ex-members; why is this so? “I don’t know…I do what I have to do. I follow my own vision and I’ve always said that people change in life. We’ve been doing the band for 23 years and of course some people don’t want to do this for the rest of their lives; they want a more normal way of living – and that’s been one of the reasons why some people have left the band. They’ve just had enough of touring and living this kind of life, which I have full respect for but for me, the music means too much to me. This is who I am and what I’m doing so it’s never been a matter of thinking about quitting myself.”
I mention the departure of vocalist Emperor Magnus Caligula, who left in 2010 to be replaced by Heljamadr, and the addition of Natt on bass. Already it’s a changing line-up. “With Heljamadr it’s working out but Natt was only with us for a short while. We decided after that that we’ll just keep working with a session bassist and keep the band as a four piece until it feels good. We realised that we made a couple of mistakes when it comes to bassists; in the past we’ve brought in bassists that have normally been guitarists and most of them, after a while, have started to miss playing guitar even though it’s been up in discussion that this won’t be the case. But at this point we’re just going to work with session bassists until further notice and if we bring someone in, they’ll be a bassist who plays bass as their main instrument.” He gets coy when I ask who will be on bass duties for the tour. “We have one guy ready for the first couple of shows, and we’re going to let the world know who he is – he’s pretty well-known – he’s not necessarily known from the black metal scene – but he actually played bass on one of our records; I’ll give you that hint. He did some studio work on one of the records for us.” Come on – you know you want to tell me. He chuckles. “I know! But I can’t…I spoke to him a couple of days ago because we’re starting rehearsals for the tour. He feels pretty comfortable with all of the songs and it’s going to be good. He really takes this seriously and he wants to do a good job, and he’s an amazing bassist in every way. I’m totally confident that he’s gonna bring the bass aspect into the live situation for us – but we’ll have to see how many live shows he can do with us because he’s doing some other stuff. But I know he really wants to help us out and at least do a couple of shows with us. He’s totally into it.”
We touch on the video for My Funeral (from Angelus Exuro pro Eternus, 2009) which was pulled from MySpace, and I tell Ahriman that I couldn’t see what the fuss was about. He’s in agreement. “Yeah; I don’t know either. I guess it was that one suicidal scene; I guess they saw that scene and didn’t understand the lyrics or the song in itself. I guess that thought we were approving suicide but it’s not that; if you read the lyrics then you’ll understand why that scene was necessary. I think it was a misunderstanding but whoever decided to censor it saw that scene and lost it, I guess. But that’s what we’re used to – there’s always some kind of censorship haunting behind us with whatever we do.” So are there plans for a video for a tune from Where Shadows Forever Reign? He gets coy again. It’s quite charming. “There is going to be a video but I won’t reveal any of it now. We had two days of shooting on Saturday and Sunday, and we have one more day which we need to do some additional scenes. It’s gonna be a pretty interesting video – and the song is phenomenal. Obviously we’re following a lyrical theme for the story-based video. It’s gonna be an epic video and it’s gonna be announced real soon – there’s some crazy shit going on!”
I have to ask – that Bieber tweet; was it real? He replies “I don’t know…it felt weird but I had to reply…” So you might have met him? “When I’m on tour I meet a lot people; I talk to people who are bosses at banks and I meet a lot of different people who enjoy our music. There have been hip-hop artists coming out to watch our shows; it feels weird that they like black metal but apparently some do. I think it’s cool that our music can attract other kinds of people without us doing any compromises.” This is getting bizarre; rap artists at a black metal show? So have you considered a bit of a cross-over, I ask, half-jokingly. His answer is pretty odd. “No – but I have been asked by a pretty big American hip-hop band to write some stuff for them but I said I can’t do it. I need to be able to feel the music if I’m going to contribute anything of any worth, and I don’t really see myself being inspired by hip-hop. It’s just not my type of music but I thought it was cool that they were into my playing and what we’re doing.”
What the fuck? Who wants to collaborate with Lord Ahriman? He won’t tell but he explains “Apparently some hip-hop artists are into extreme metal. Some hip-hop can be really extreme too so there is some kind of common aspect there but I didn’t see that when I was first confronted with it. Then some hip-hop guys came out to some shows in the US and they stayed after the show and introduced themselves and said how they enjoyed our music. It’s obviously really weird for me but everything is possible. I can’t control who listens to our music but it’s cool that these people listen to it and enjoy it.” He sounds almost as confused by the situation as me – but alas our time is up – so I am left pondering the mystery identity of those crazy hip-hop stars who want a piece of Ahriman *shudder*.
Where Shadows Forever Reign – out soon.