I was rather taken with the aggressive and confident return to the fray that the Viking Metal comrades Einherjer created recently with ‘Norron’ and so when I got the chance to ask them a little about the whys and the hows I did and found a band keen to offer a greater awareness of Viking culture than just a history of violence. Settle back and share this, as well as some sage advice about fiddles. Questions answered by Gerhard Storesund
Ave Noctum: Greetings. Firstly, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. I’m sure there are a lot of calls on your time, so I do appreciate it. You’ve returned to the fray after a few years dormant with the excellent album Norron, arguably your best ever release. You must be very pleased with the way it has turned out. Did it all go smoothly or was it strange to be back in the studio together as Einherjer?
Einherjer: Yes, we are very pleased how it turned out, and pretty relieved that it was so well received as well. There has been a lot of excitement and many expectations around this album, and that also takes it’s toll on us. We really wanted to fuck everything and to what we wanted, but without disappointing too many fans in the process. We wanted this album to be unique, and have it’s own identity like our other albums. Things never go smoothly when recording an album. Very often it turn out to be a womb of frustration, at least for my part.
Ave Noctum: Where does this leave Battered, the band you formed after Einherjer split?
Einherjer: Battered is pretty much done for. We don’t have any plans for that band in the future, but who knows? We want to direct all focus on Einherjer now that we’re back, and I think we owe that to our label and so on as well. The other guys that didn’t have a background in Einherjer, also had their own band to go back to, called The Executive Suite.
Ave Noctum: It’s eight years since Blot. What made ‘now’ the right time for your return? Did you feel there was unfinished business, something to prove to the younger crop of Vikings out there, was the music just screaming to be let out, or what was it?
Einherjer: It’s just random that we started up again now. It’s like “You can’t stop an idea whose time has come” thing. It just felt right for all of us to get Einherjer up and running again. We had the motivation to compose for that band again, and we also felt that we had a great deal of strong material lying around. I don’t think we have anything to prove to the younger crops these days. And even though most of them are bands I cannot relate to, they have also helped the scene to grow. And that is something that benefits us as well.
Ave Noctum: For those of us not fluent in your native tongue, is there a theme running through Norron? Can you expand on the lyrics for us? I’m particularly intrigued by the epic, wonderful Norron Kraft and the enigmatic closing song ‘Balladen Om Bifrost’
Einherjer: No, there is no consistent theme on “Norrøn”. I don’t write any lyrics, so I don’t want to go into detail about them. They still revolve around the same topics as before, but maybe a bit more relevant to the present day. Written in a way, so people can relate to them today. Off course it’s in Norwegian, and in our local dialect, so you have to learn that first
Ave Noctum: Obviously, the Norse culture, history and beliefs are the heart and soul of what Einherjer are about, but why do you think it’s a feel that travels so well? I mean where I live in the UK you can scarcely move without tripping over place names, traditions or relics of Viking settlers so it’s something I’ve grown up knowing about, but how does it feel for you encountering these echoes of the past so far from home? And what about countries that have little of that surviving, or never had it? What do you think or hope they take from your music?
Einherjer: The Norwegian pre-christian culture is our heritage, but it’s also a world heritage. A fascination that goes far outside only Scandinavia. Equal to other ethnic cultures like the romans, celts and the greek myths, that reaches far beyond it’s borders. It has it’s limitations as a band theme though, as you need some historic interest to really get into it, and some people are turned off by it. Even though the Vikings did a lot of pretty bad stuff over there on the British Isles in their time, I feel now that it’s more of a brother land where that culture is embraced, and people are proud of. We have Viking festivals here each year, and we get many visitors from England, particularly from York or Jorvik as it was once named. They have definately left trails wherever they travelled, and those who stayed spread their seeds. I think you can find marks from the Viking settlers in most of Europe, even though the British Isles and France seemed to be most popular. I hope and believe this anyone can find this stuff interesting, and we have fans with the fascination for this topic all over the world, where even the long arm of the Viking never reached. I hope they see that we try to present our heritage in a just way, with a sense of reverence. No politics, only stories.
Ave Noctum: As well as warriors, the Vikings were famous travellers, explorers, craftsmen and traders, not afraid of the new ideas or cultures they encountered. Do you draw influences from outside too or prefer to stay close to the roots? Why?
Einherjer: Yes, the Vikings had many qualities apart from their warlike abilities, and in that day and age, the Vikings weren’t alone in being violent. Lyrically, we mainly stick to our roots. We like to have a holistic approach, what Einherjer concerns, and not drag too many elements into it. Musically we off course draw inspiration from all over the place. All types of rock and metal, classical music, film scores and off course some folk music.
Ave Noctum: Obviously the culture is a great ocean to draw from, but how do you keep the inspiration fresh? Has your time away helped, do you think?
Einherjer: Our time away has helped both musically and lyrically. One should think that when you are free to make whatever you want, and write whatever you want as we did in Battered, it should be easier. Personally, I found that the thematic framework we operate with in Einherjer is a boost to the creativity. We’ve also had the time to change mindsets a few times during this break. We’ve also matured, and removed ourselves a bit from our old path, which leaves us with the possibility to try something entirely different. Even though we have a pretty rich archive to dig into, we also have to be careful not to repeat ourselves. The most important thing for us, is to present this stuff in a mature, non-cartoonish way. There’s a thin line there, as I’ve seen.
Ave Noctum: There is a strong martial sound throughout Norron, particularly around the drums. For me it adds a focus and intensity that drives the atmosphere. This, and the use of some horn sounds is particularly against the grain as many others increasingly rely on more ‘folk’ elements. Was this in any way a reaction to the current scene, or simply a different way of expressing your roots?
Einherjer: I like to think that Einherjer is more of an old school Viking metal band, rather than a folk metal band. Yes, we draw influences from folk music as well, but we try to emphasize the metal part more. It’s not like you get more authentic using a flute. If you want to close in on authentic, go Wardruna. We want to express our roots and culture in a proud and heroic manner, and what better tool is there than distorted guitars and majestic horns. We use many different instruments, but we want the core band to carry everything.
Ave Noctum: Do you even feel connected to a scene, or do you feel that you have diverged from other Viking Metal bands?
Einherjer: The funny thing is, I really don’t really listen to that type of music at all. Don’t get me wrong, there are many cool bands like Windir, Helheim, Enslaved and Moonsorrow for example. Maybe all of them aren’t actually Viking metal, but pretty close. I like to listen to stuff like Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Accept and bands like that. I still feel that Einherjer is part of the scene, and also has a credible standing in the scene.
Ave Noctum: Alu Alu Laukar is a cover of a song by Ym:Stammen, a 90s band out of Oslo. It fits beautifully in with the feel of Norron. I was sadly unaware of the band before this so is there anything you’d like to pass on about them to the uninitiated and why this particular song was recorded?
Einherjer: Ah yes, Ym:Stammen. What a unique, peculiar band. Sadly they called it quits in the late 90’s. To people who are unfamiliar with the band, it’s not a metal band at all. It can best be characterized as Norse’n’roll. Pop/rock with norse influences. “Alu Alu Laukar” is originally from their album “Guden I Steinen” from 97. It is an album that at least me and guitarist Frode have listened to a lot, and this song in particular fits the Einherjer spirit perfectly. It’s one of their more rock based songs. The lyrics is also in accordance to what Einherjer wants to portray. It is a depiction of the earliest known battle in Norway, around about year 500.
Ave Noctum: Any plans for live work soon to support Norron?
Einherjer: Yes, we’re embarking on a small tour over here in Norway, along with brothers in arms Vreid and Kampfar in a couple of weeks. This is presented by Metal Hammer Norway and Amber booking. Other than that, we’re also doing a one off gig in Moscow. As far as I know, that will be it for this year.
Ave Noctum: Thanks again for your time. Any last words to your fans?
Einherjer: Don’t listen to out of tune fiddles! Listen to Viking metalJ
Can’t argue with that, can you?
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