All photos by Grace Hollaender
This weekend, Fallen Empire Records (in association with Psychic Violence Records and Terratur Possessions) will host an event of unprecentented awesomeness in a city now used to the appearance stellar metal shows. A two-day fest with the rather grandiose title Dissociative Visions: A Congregation of Perpetual Torment will manifest itself at Brooklyn's Saint Vitus Bar on Friday and Saturday, following a preshow at The Acheron tonight (featuring Volahn, Hand of Glory, T.O.M.B. and Wulfkrieg).
The lineup is the stuff of what most North American black metal enthusiasts' dreams are made of, woth Norway's One Tail One Head and Iceland's Sinmara leading the charge. Dissociative Visions will also bring together Sinmara affiliates Slidhr for a debut live performance, Canadian occultists Sortilegia, rising forces like Vanum, Haethan, Eos, Lluvia, Predatory Light, and Aureole, and NYC's own Vorde and Vilkacis, who are part of their own black collective, House of First Light.
In anticipation of the Icelandic contingent's first-ever North American appearance, I wanted to whip up a little introduction for those who don't yet know what kind of trouble's coming our way. Sinmara burst into being only a few years ago, rising form the ashes of Chao with Aphotic Womb, a debut that became both critically revered ahd considered an underground triumph. Though they dislike the term "supergroup," it's a stark reality of the Icelandic black metal community that there simply aren't that many people involved, and the ones who are tend to find themselves pulling double- or even triple-duty in other bands. Sinmara counts members of Svartidauði, Slidhr, Rebirth of Nefast (and former conspirators with Wormlust and Abominor) among its current confederation, but their focus remains unclouded: as they stated to me in an email, the band's ultimate purpose is "to be the singular expression of true darkness."
Guitarist Þórir answered a handful of other questions, too, and we also sent a photographer into Sinmara's lair to document some of their preparations for Saturday night's onslaught. The resulting responses, photos, and rehearsal footage paints a picture of a band at the top of its game that's wholly focused, and still hungry—ravenous, even—to make a mark outside Iceland's shores.
It's hilarious to me that some people are already bitching about the attention you and the other Reykjavik bands have begun to receive.
We aren't too worried about scene politics, we prefer just focusing on our art. However, there will always be a handful of sad people on forums or what have you with nothing else to do than to find new things to complain about. It's all par the course, really, if something new and exciting gets any exposure or success at all some people automatically label it as overrated or with that age-old moniker "trendy". We saw this happen with Bölzer just recently when a select few idiots started some confused crusade against "trends." But this is all much ado about nothing really, and for those that complain: you're going to have to get used to it, because we have barely started yet.
If anything, it seems like the Icelandic scene is finally coming into its own. You've got bands working with respected foreign labels, playing foreign festivals, adjusting their image as they grow (thinking of Gone Postal becoming Shrine here, and also your own switch from Chao to Sinmara). The Vánagandr circle keeps expanding. From the outside looking in, it seems like a Renaissance of sorts has gripped hold of Reykjavik's black metal community.
As you said, we've been venturing out to play quite a bit abroad, and this has helped us sharpen up and gain better focus to better understand what we need to do to get accross the feeling we want to portray. We have gained a lot of experience over the last few years and have been inspired by some of the great people and artists we've met on the road. The Icelandic scene is also still very young ,and it is only just recently that it became more of a movement. For the longest time, there were just a tiny handful of bands scattered around, each doing their own thing and almost no activity at all. It‘s only in the last two years or so that enough like-minded projects were around for there to be any sort of unity and sustained progression as a movement, so things are finally starting to get exciting.
As seems fairly typical for the Icelandic scene, Sinmara's something of an underground supergroup. how often are you able to get together and collaborate? How do you avoid stepping on other projects' toes, so to speak, when you're coming up with riffs and lyrical ideas?
We were wary of the supergroup tag from the start, but we decided to persevere and mention our other bands in press releases leading up to the album both in order to gain some additional attention, and as a service to those who already were fans of our other bands. Make no mistake though: Sinmara is an extremely active band. Sinmara is nobody's side project, we all take it very seriously, and accordingly, we rehearse strenuously and write prolifically. Musical styles bleeding over between bands happens naturally as each of us has his own distinct songwriting and playing style, although those of us in various projects consciously try to adjust their songwriting according to the band they are writing for. As per lyrical ideas, there have been some concepts crossing between bands by coincidence but nothing that couldn't happen between any two random bands playing the genre.
Your early inspirations in NoEvDia-style Orthodox black metal have grown into something uniquely your own. It sounds like an organic shift, but one that surely carried some intent—after all, some of the best bands start out aping their favorites before finding their own path. How do you see your sound evolving from here?
Our sound is already evolving a whole lot under the surface, and in the music we are currently working on, Sinmara has undergone an organic shift towards a sound more steeped in grandeur, mystery and transcendence than our current one, which is harsher and more venomous. Our upcoming material should however appeal to all of our current fans as well as those seeking black metal of a more atmospheric kind.
What's some practical advice you can give to bands located in other remote areas about moving past their respective geographical limitations to find success?
Hustle, gain contacts, pay your dues when you're starting out as it will pay dividends in the future. Make use of state, municipal and private airfare sponsorships when applicable in order to either lessen the burden for yourself or make things easier for the promoter, but don't be afraid to put some of your own money towards your first few appearances abroad while you're building stature.
What lies in the near future—you hinted at a few things before, can you elaborate?
We are currently working overtime writing and recording new material, and we have a number of upcoming releases coming up, some of them hopefully this year. We also will be doing a lot more merchandise in the not so distant future. We are playing Siege of Limerick in Ireland this October, the final edition of the breathtaking event Nidrosian Black Mass in December and Satan's Convention in Germany in January, and hopefully a lot more shows in the coming months.
What can we expect to see from you—and Slidhr—at Dissociative Visions this weekend?
We will utterly lay waste to New York. You have been warned.