VIKINGS, METAL & ALE
I must say I love this feeling, when I get a bunch of CDs to review and when among those selected ones there are also bands, which I’ve never heard about before and which turn out to be really great. You know, an album, which you cannot stop listening to and which you just want to recommend to everyone, so good it is, but also criminally unknown… This is what happened when I’ve listened to SLEIPNIR’s “Bloodbrothers”. This album came to me together with some other releases of the label called GARDARIKA Musik, and when I’ve listened to the first two CDs I thought they’re all shit. But then I got to know “Bloodbrothers” and from the start I loved this album. SLEIPNIR turned out to be great, Viking metal band, with very epic and monumental sound, with damn catchy, but aggressive songs and fantastic atmosphere. I’ve been listening to this album for days, until I was able to sing all choruses hehe and then I thought “OK, I listen to it too often”. But I decided to interview SLEIPNIR, support them and so here is the interview with half of this duo, Paul. I do know that the guy could be a father of many of nowadays metal fans, but he seems to be very cool chap and I must say I liked his answers a lot. Please, read the interview and support SLEIPNIR, get their CD and wait for the second one, which is about to be released soon I hope.
Can you tell me something more about this old band of yours called CULT OF FREY first? You’ve recorded several demos in the mid 90’s under this moniker, what were they like and what was the response from the underground? From what I’ve listened to, they were much slower, raw and doomy than SLEIPNIR, but there were also many similarities between both bands for sure, like these amazing clean vocals (I’m talking about this great song titled “Blood Sacrifice” from 2006 especially)!
CULT OF FREY was formed in the early 90s by myself and a fellow Odinist called Jason. We recorded a 2 track demo in 92. This was followed by the writing of the songs that made up ‘Sons Of Ing’. We were both massive fans of BATHORY and wished to write songs in that vein but with a more doom influence. We recorded guitars, drums and vocals for the album and then the plan was to return and record more vocals and some keyboards. However Jason left shortly after the initial recordings and the band folded. In 1996 I released ‘Sons Of Ing’ in a small quantity and it received a fairly good reaction from those that got it. There was some good feedback from zines from Norway, Malaysia as well as the UK. I was quite pleased as it was basically an unfinished, unmixed demo. It’s similar to SLEIPNIR in some respects but like you say far more doomy.
Are you going to re-release old CULT OF FREY recordings any time soon? What actually did make you to stop this band?
I resurrected CULT OF FREY in 2006 and re-recorded “BloodSacrifice”. The intention was to rerecord the whole of ‘Sons Of Ing’ but I formed SLEIPNIR with Tossell instead, so CULT OF FREY is now a dead band. We plan to record CULT OF FREY songs as bonus tracks for our future albums and they will be partly rewritten in the SLEIPNIR vein. Anyone wishing for a copy of the original ‘Sons Of Ing’ can contact me through the email address at the end of this interview and I will send it to them.
In 2005 you’ve formed SLEIPNIR. Have you played in any other bands between the split up of CULT OF FREY and formation of SLEIPNIR? What was the main aim for creating new band in 2005, instead of continuing with CULT OF FREY?
I’ve played in a few bands over the years. Nothing of any real interest though. Some old stoner bands and a shit punk band. Tossell and myself had a band called MJOLLNIR in the late 90s but other than some lyrics nothing came of it. SLEIPNIR was formed by us and the idea was to try and create music that would be as epic as possible, in the vein of our heroes MANOWAR and BATHORY. I felt that CULT OF FREY was from a different period in my life and it would be better to start with a fresh band and ideas.
I know you’ve met Tossell already in the 90’s but only recently decided to play in a band together. What kind of relationship was it, were you just beer buddies, or you’ve always shared and based your friendship on the common interests, especially in the Nordic myths and believes?
We met through a shop where we both ordered our metal CDs from. Each of us would go in with a list of obscure black metal to be ordered through the shop. Every time Tossell went in he would check my list for anything he may have missed. The bloke in the shop who I played in a band with at the time (it was him who used to call me Darklord) would say to Tossell “have a look at Darklord’s list”. We met one night in a local pub when his wife approached me and asked if I was Darklord. We chatted and found we liked a lot of the same bands. Over time, with our involvement in Odinism we became bloodbrothers, hence the title of the album. For us the friendship has always been about metal and ale.
Speaking of it, already since CULT OF FREY you’ve been interested in Viking mythology, but tell me why Odinism or Wotanism, not something else (Celtic cults for instance)? What is Odinism to you? What values of neopaganism are most important to you in these modern times of nowadays?
I initially became interested with Vikings through the release of ‘Hammerheart’. I had enjoyed the Viking songs of MANOWAR before this and having followed BATHORY from 1987 this album took me by surprise. That one album could contain such atmospheres and epic themes. I was transported to Valhalla as the album played. No album has come as close to ‘Hammerheart’
In defining my interests in metal. When I met Jason he had a bigger knowledge of Odinism and we joined the Odinic Rite (O.R.). With some likeminded people we formed a local hearth (Sleipnir hearth) and when I met Tossell and his wife they also joined us. To be honest I never considered anything other than Odinism. It just seemed like a natural thing for me. I became disillusioned with Odinism towards the end of the 90s and I now have my own personnel beliefs. The most important thing I feel anyone can do in these modern times is to question Christian / Islamic teachings and their far reaching, growing and dangerous influences in the world. They are leading us to World War 3!!!!!!
"...We sing about Odin and Thor and the glory of Valhalla..."
Do you practice any Odinic rites?
Like I said previously I became disillusioned by Odinism years ago so the answer is no. When I was involved in the hearth we held monthly blots and also well organized Midsummer festivals. I used to build 2.5M sunwheels for the ritual. During one such event in 1996 we were betrayed by some people from the O.R. who had conspired with some Nazis to overrun the event and the whole thing erupted in chaos. All the planning and money we spent was wasted. Soon after we left the O.R. and formed a small splinter group that was far more heathen in its thinking and actions. We continued with the festivals, a mead hall was built on some land owned by some fellow Odinists, but I never quite felt the same again. Eventually after constant fighting and arguments I left fed up with the whole thing. It felt to controlling and not at all heathen. Like I said earlier I hold beliefs which are personnel to me.
Wotanism is often connected to racism, even Nazism. What feelings do you have concerning such extreme views? They often turn into dangerous fanaticism, vide the recent happenings in Norway…
I have no thoughts at all on Nazism. If people wish to have those beliefs it is up to them. It holds no interest for me.
OK, but to the music then… You’ve self released “Bloodbrothers” in 2008, but then GARDARIKA re-released it in 2011. Are there any differences between both versions of this CD, i.e. tracklist or the graphics? Why did it take you so long to find a proper label to release this excellent album?
The Gardarika version from 2010 is the proper version. The label worked hard on producing the look of the booklet and the original artwork. The tracklist and music are the same. We originally only sent it out to about ten labels and some magazines. We sold some copies and then it got ripped to some music sites. This worked in our favor however as Gardarika downloaded it. They emailed me asking if the album had been released through a label. When I told them it was self released they asked us to sign to them for the official release of ‘Bloodbrothers’. I already owned some of their previous releases and when I saw they were planning the re-release of MUNRUTHEL’s excellent ‘Orianas Tales’ I jumped at the chance. The label has done us proud and it turned out better than we could have hoped. It was a pleasure to work with them
What is this place, where you’ve recorded the album? And how long have you worked on this album, as it was your first recording and you haven’t done any demos earlier?
The album was recorded in my own studio. We worked on this album for about 2 years. I compose and record all the music including recording the choirs. I have a song title in mind and some lyrical ideas and then I sit down with Tossell and we write the lyrics. We then record all the vocals. The warrior chorus is recorded 24 times to give it that epic feel. It is a lot of hard work but it is worth it. This was our first set of recordings as a band and only a song remains that was not placed on the album. It has no lyrics and I will probably use ideas from it for future songs.
Lyrically “Bloodbrothers” concentrates more on fighting with Christians (“let the Christians die, slay them and burn their village…”) and hailing the bravery of ancient warriors than on the Nordic mythologies or mysticism. Is it intentional concept for the album, maybe a fascination with BATHORY’s “A Fine Day to Die”? Also, in lyrics like “Once We Were Kings”, is there some nostalgia to the old times? Would you rather live in this age of darkness?
Our lyrics tell the sagas of Viking bloodbrothers. Mostly they deal with the slaying of Christians and the honor of dying in battle. We sing about Odin and Thor and the glory of Valhalla. These sagas continue on the new album. The concept is intentional and is pure escapism. As I said earlier my interest in Odinism is now personal and not something I would wish to sing about. A fascination with any BATHORY song is a given!!!! ‘Once We Were Kings’ tells of a warriors thoughts as he looks back at his country overrun with Christian beliefs and remembers the times before. To live 1200 years would be interesting to me but only with access to modern comforts!! I’m 42 and would be an old man if I lived then!!
Nordic mythology brings many interesting stories and such, even your bandname is taken from it, as sleipnir was an eight-legged horse, Odin’s steed. I know it may be too complicated to answer, but which myths or characters are the most interesting to you, with which do you identify yourself most?
I have read the myths many times. They are excellent stories, humorous at times. I have also read some of the sagas. The band name comes from the name of the Odinic hearth we were a part of. That is why we chose Sleipnir. I always identified with the god Tyr (the sacrifice of his hand to bind Fenris was a favorite tale of mineand I know Tossell identified himself with Loki. I always enjoyed the tales with Thor and Loki and their visits to the giants.
The music on “Bloodbrothers” is very epic, monumental, but also aggressive and the atmosphere of the album is truly possessing and crushing. Tell me what were your biggest musical influences while composing it? I suppose BATHORY must have been the main source of inspiration? And the clean vocals / chants are fantastic!!
Thank you Marcin for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed our work. To be honest I love most kinds of extreme metal and own a lot of the Viking / folk metal around today but I tried to empty my head when it came to composing the songs. I wanted to try and have our own sound and not imitate what had been before. We aimed to record music that was as epic as possible. The only acceptable influences to me would be BATHORY and MANOWAR.
We have tried to stay away from this modern happy sounding folk metal. As I said earlier the clean vocal chants are recorded 24 times to give a truly epic feel. There are plenty of these on the new album!!!!!!
I wonder what do you think of FOREFATHER? In my review I underlined the similarities between both bands, especially with the clean vocals… I wonder if you’ve ever listened to the albums of Athelstan and Wulfstan?
I love FOREFATHER!!!! They are one of the best English bands out there. I’ve followed them since their first album which I have on the original issue. Their last album was fantastic and I hope they return soon.
Do you pay attention to the British black metal scene and bands like FEN, WINTERFYLLETH, WOODENSTHRONE? I think that all of a sudden UK has developed really great heathen scene!
Again I am a fan of all the mentioned bands. I own everything they have done except for WODENSTHRONE (I only own their split with FOLKVANG). WINTERFYLLETH are the best in my opinion. I also suggest you check out OLD CORPSE ROAD if you haven’t already.
I’ve read somewhere that SLEIPNIR is about to record second full length soon. Tell me, have you started the works on it? When can we expect the album and what will it be like, musically and lyrically?
We have been working on the new album for the last 2 years. Most of the music and vocals are recorded and at the moment I am editing and arranging the tracks before I start mixing. The album is called ‘Oaths Sworn In Blood And Mead’ and the tracklisting is as follows – ‘Hail The Heathen Hordes Of Midgard (Sworn To The Hammer Of Thor)’, ‘Blood On The Sword’, ‘Farewell (To A Fallen Brother)’, ‘An Oath Sworn In Blood And Mead’, ‘The Blood And The Bones (Once We Were Kings Pt 2)’, and ‘What The Runes Foretold’. Lyrically it follows on from the last album with tales of battles, Christian slaying, mythical swords, blood oaths, journeys to sacred groves to gather runic knowledge and fallen warriors. The shortest track is around 8 minutes and the longest around 15. It will probably be about 70 minutes long. It contains big choruses, epic choirs and the keyboards have been replaced with epic orchestration. It’s shaping up really well and if you liked ‘Bloodbrothers’ then you will love this new one. It should be completed by the end of the year and then it’s a matter of finding a label to release it. After this we plan to record an EP with one 20 minute plus track, a cover and the first rerecording of some CULT OF FREY stuff. That should be completed sometime in 2012 before we start the next album.
Are you going to use the drum machine again or maybe find a human drummer to play all the drums?
We plan to use a local drummer for this album. It all depends on how it works out and time restraints. If the album is ready and we haven’t recorded the drums we may press on without them. My drum programming on this new album far surpasses the primitive efforts on the first album.
That would be all my questions. Please finish this interview with some words and maybe also recommend “Bloodbrothers” to my readers, who do you think will be interested in this music? Cheers!
I would just like to say a big thank you to you Marcin for your support and interest in SLEIPNIR and for the excellent review.
Anyone reading this who likes Epic Metal and is a bit fed up of the endless stream of Folk / Viking Metal bands who all sound the same should give ‘Bloodbrothers’ a try. Also look out for ‘Oaths Sworn In Blood And Mead’ sometime next year. Anyone after more info and wishes to purchase a copy of ‘Bloodbrothers’ can email me – firstname.lastname@example.org. Also anyone after a copy of the CULT OF FREY demo ‘Sons Of Ing’ is welcome to write.
All the best Marcin from England. Keep up the good work