Photo courtesy of Peaceville
Led by multi-instrumentalist Vicotnik, Dødheimsgard (also known as DHG) emerged from the fertile Norwegian black metal underground during the 1990s. By the time like-minded metal musicians had started to slap on corpse paint and emulate the music and ideologies of the Second Wave pioneers, Vicotnik was already ten steps ahead creatively. With both DHG and the enigmatic Ved Buens Ende, Vicotnik twisted soon-to-be-set conventions by incorporating challenging sounds and structures outside of black metal, making him one the most artistically adventurous musicians in extreme metal history.
It has been eight years since DHG last released a studio album, and in that time, black metal has proven itself the most imaginative of all metal’s subgenres. Considering his past accomplishments, some credit is due to Vicotnik for inspiring the progressive tendencies of current black metal acts. Now, he's finally has reunited with vocalist Aldrahn for DHG’s forthcoming fifth full-length, A Umbra Omega, which marks their first album together since 1999’s 666 International.
Even by DHG’s high standards, A Umbra Omega sounds meticulously crafted, with every unexpected progression placed with purpose. It's also hard to find a foothold for the first couple of spins, and it's dramatic and cinematic in different ways without softening DHG’s original edge. Listen to A Umbra Omega in its entirety below:
Noisey caught up with Vicotnik to discuss Aldrahn’s return, the creation of DHG’s new album, and his thoughts on the evolution of black metal.
Noisey: How did Aldrahn's return to DHG come about?
Vicotnik: On a practical level, the spot was vacant, so it just made sense. Either I could go for the vocalist that sang on most of the DHG records, or I could do it myself. It also helped that Aldrahn really seemed to connect with the songs when I first played them for him. On a personal note, it’s good to have him back!
What does Aldrahn bring to DHG that previous vocalist Kvohst didn't?
They’re both very good in their own right. Kvohst has a higher technical level than Aldrahn, and thus a bigger range. Aldrahn has fewer inhibitions,[which makes for a unique performance. Kvohst understands music intellectually, while Aldrahn is more of an emotional performer. So they are very different as vocalists, and in my opinion, very difficult to compare.
So, why have we had to wait so long for the new DHG album?
Well, it takes time defining the concept, content and packaging for a new record. When I started making songs for this record, they pretty much sounded like Supervillain Outcast songs, so slowly I had to figure out how to hone in on a new mental projection. If I have nothing slightly different to convey, I probably won’t do a record. I try to avoid repetition.
Can you tell us about the creative process that led to A Umbra Omega?
Even though the album displays a range of genres, I would say the one thing tying it all together is the sense of melancholy. I guess that was the feeling I was trying to convey. At first I tried to build more verse/chorus-based songs but soon found out that a natural and countable form made an abstract theme less potent. It felt too structured and contained. I wanted something that not only conveyed the feeling I was after but rather, put the listener smack in the middle of it. So, over the course of the album, the darkness slowly drifts from being my darkness to become the listener's own darkness.
DHG pushed experimentation in black metal, and you, as a songwriter, have not been credited enough for inspiring bands that think outside of Second Wave tenets. I'm interested to know what you think of the evolution of black metal since the 90s.
Well thank you very much, I really appreciate you saying so. You know, giving something back to our great genre is part of the equation. The genre gave me so much, so contributing something unique for the purpose of making it less stale is my way of moving it forward. Evolution ensures the survival of things. I don’t mean to diminish more traditional approaches to black metal, because what we do doesn't erase that, nor do we want to. But on the other hand, if every black metal musician chose to conform to one single recipe, you wouldn't have bands like DHG. Challenging any boundary–be it religious, political or musical – is necessary. I think all the early 90s bands were originals. None of them sounded vaguely similar, so I guess I just continued on the path that was part of my nurturing. For my generation of musicians, plagiarism was the greatest sin, while a unique style showed traits of self-reliance and individualism. Today black metal is a sub-culture, when I started out it was more sect-like, in the sense that you really had to prove yourself in order to be part of it – and believe me, you were always under scrutiny. Today you only have to show a love for the genre to be allowed in, so for better or worse, that’s a huge difference.
Why do you think metal fans in 2015 are more open to the inclusion of different genres outside black metal?
There is just more people into the genre, man, plain and simple! More of everything! The good, the bad, the ugly, the nasty, the stupid... Thus more fans are embracing their individual concepts of taste. On many levels the average DHG fan and I are probably not that different, and that is why they connect with our music. I and many others have made sure that this option is out there for the deviant, and the Internet has made sure they can reach it.
The final burning question is: Will we have to wait another eight years for the next DHG album?
I hope not!
A Umbra Omega' is out March 16 via Peaceville Records; preorders are now available.
Dean Brown is getting avant-garde on Twitter - @reus85