A much discussed band that creates untraditional black metal. It is eerie, it is evil, it is dark and every sign of joy disappears to the rhythm of the music. In what is only his second ever interview, and, according to him, it will be a long, long time before he does another, General Gribbsphiiser talks about the ideas behind Slagmaur, about the music, the lyrics and about black metal.
…read part 1/3 here…
Skrekk Lich Kunstler - the beating of the heart, the art of horror
What did "Skrekk Lich Kunstler" actually do to you? General Gribbsphiiser begins by talking about horror movies.
"When you watch a horror movie you can obviously feel terror. But you know that this is darkness that you can just walk away from, or that comes to an end once the movie has reached its conclusion. If you dwell for any length of time within the darkness in the album, you will find it harder to return from the grave.
On "Von Rov Shelter" I was in control of the process. "Skrekk Lich...” though, was actually written in five hours during one night, and straight away I sent a message to the drummer to let him know the album was done. I was 100 % sure that it was really good, and it probably was quite OK. But nine months went by before we could finally close off the album. I have everything ready in my head when I work with the music and the art. Our designer, Robert Høyem, sees things in the same way that I do, which is why he manages to turn our visions into reality. He designed the cover quite early on in the process and in that sense gave the album its face. I dreamt and thought a lot about the cover.
When you work so intensely with the music, the artwork and the overall concept, you can't fight against the power that it exerts over you. However, you need to have some breaks, and I failed to do that with "Skrekk Lich Kunstler". The album is complex in every sense, and made me physically ill; I collapsed a few times, long treks in the middle of the night and overnight stays at the ER. "Skrekk Lich..." is the exception when it comes to the balance we spoke about earlier. During that period I was deep, deep down in the bowels of the earth."
He tells that the album means very much to him and I cannot avoid to question how it is to listen to the album, having the prcoess and the depression in mind. He says that it actually feels good.
"It's as if there were a lot of little devils trying to stab you with knives, but you bind them and use loads of tape on them and throw them the hell out of there and into the world. It’s cathartic, but at the time it felt like they wouldn't leave me; I lost everything in my life but I'm happy now when I look back at the process in retrospect. But now that all these devils are spread around the globe they don’t bother me anymore – probably attached themselves to someone else by now!"
The rhytmathic approach in the music is the crazy happiness of monotony. What is it that made the beating of the heart the pulse in Slagmaur's music? General Gribbsphiiser confirms that there are no blastbeats in his music.
"Our music is quite advanced. My experience tells me that if you want to convey the sense of horror in the music, you can't speed it up. You know, when we talk about love in music, the rhythms are often faster and you have the sensation of butterflies. I also think that the drums take away a lot of the sound picture if you use blast beats. When we slow things down there is room for much more in the music, and I include a lot of information in Slagmaur’s songs."
The General adds that the beats in Slagmaur reminds of the heart rhythm. And since there is so much going on in the music on conscious and subconscous levels, it's important that there is something that people can recognize. I think that the slow pounding really adds to the negativ aura of the Slagmaur universe. To me "Die Eldres Klage" is a tour-de-abyss, where desperation is the only thing left, there is no hope at all. There exists music that makes me smile in extacy because of its qualities. "Die Eldres Klage" is also extremely good, but there's nothing therein that makes me smile a single second...
"Die Eldres Klage" deals with, among other things, spirits and the paranormal. When I walk on one of the staircases where I live I feel ill. There is something there that you can’t define. I have actually seen my deceased grandfather on those stairs, and he’s playing the fiddle. He was a good musician and wrote symphonies. Anyway, I have seen him there, and that experience affected this song. I read that in ancient times they used to sing through skulls to make use of the energy that is there. So, we used this method ourselves. I don't know if it really works, but I like to believe that it has a certain effect. It was interesting to hear that you thought this track stands out on "Skrekk Lich Kunstler". We actually recorded the vocals on the stairs where I see my grandfather."
Lyrics - to hell with them all
The lyric to "Die Eldres Klage" begins quite nicely. But then it spiral downwards... "...det er nå jeg skal betale for gleden i livet..." (roughly translate: it is now I'm gonig to pay for the joy in life) and "...hvorfor kommer ingen som ser til meg..." (roughly translated: why doesn't anyone come to visit me).
"The song deals with an old woman who is in a lot of pain. She's old and nobody comes to visit her. She's in pain and wants to commit suicide, but she doesn't have any strength left to do it. The end of the track you find out that she is actually dead and has been for many years.
There are many people who claim that negative energy is present when people turn into ghosts. My neighbours call my house the "dark castle". It is difficult to live here together with someone over time because there is a thick layer of dark and negative energy. I can’t explain what really happens, but in the song I tried to capture the atmosphere I sense when I walk on those stairs. When you hear the song, you can hear a voice that goes back and forth. That's me trying to imitate an old woman. It is quite low in the first verse before we turn up the volume a bit in the second. The hate, the pain that she feels, that is something we will all feel since we're all going to grow old and eventually die.
I think it worked. I have talked to Åtselgribb about it and we agree that we get exhausted from listening to this album. It drains us, in the same way I feel drained after I have walked on those stairs. I feel I nailed it with this track."
He continues by talking about the lyrics "Eik som Klør" and "SIDS"...
" "Eik Som Klør" deals with being buried alive. This is the same theme that we dealt with in "SIDS" on "Domfeldt", and essentially we are exploring those people who die when they're 18 and get buried when they’re 74. In order to explain the point we were making, we had to use SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) with the image of the General burying children that were still alive. The way society is constructed means that that you are pretty much thrown into kindergarten and stay in an institution until you're 18 and even much longer for many people. You end up loosing your soul. We thought that it would not have worked if we used the image of a child who was dead; I thought it would end up being meaningless if we showed. So, we ended up using SIDS, to show those who want to dig deeper that it is important to live. You have to live here and now, and not just live this A-4 life before you suddenly die without really having lived at all."
When I ask about the pronounication to "Von Rov Shelter", the General says that it is said exactly how it is spelled. He explains that Von means one, Rov means raw in connection with carnivores and Shelter deals with hiding places.
"What we initially had in mind was that we were going to use lyrics written by an inmate on death row in the USA. Those of us who live in Fosen in Norway, are kind of isolated as well. Fosen itself means hiding place. We try to combine the fact that this man is on death row and his thoughts about music with the kind of isolation that we often experience in Fosen. Unfortunately this turned out to be very hard to do, and too much time was lost sending letters back and forth. Everything is double checked and then checked again, and then frequently gets “lost” in the prison system. So, in the end I had to do most of the lyrics myself on the new album. The lyric I use, that was written by him, displayed a very special honesty on his part.
The General asks me if I know the story of Thomas B. Whitaker, but I cannot remember it. He explains that Thomas arranged to have his family killed, and that only his father survived.
"The difference between him and us is that we all know that we’re going to die, but Thomas knows exactly when and how. And what I tried to capture were his thoughts now. I don't care what he's done or not done. His father forgave him and worked for his reprieve. The prisoners are treated like cattle; they're moved from their cells more than once a month to create tension and unease. Heh, when somebody is sentenced to death in Iran, they execute faster than a shark attacks. But in the USA inmates can be on death row for many years, and they get to know themselves in a special way. This is why the lyric is connected to the photo where the woman looks into the mirror. You can lie to the mirror, but can you hold back the beast you really are?
"Von Rov Shelter" means the lair of the beast, and then we're back to human kind and the balance between good and evil."
How do you work to find the right words, the right sentences and eventually the right combination to make a Slagmaur lyrics just that, namely a Slagmaur lyric?
"A lot of the work deals with the tone colours of the words and the sentences. An example is the track "Skamdem" fra "Domfeldt", and the line "...til helvete med dem..." (“to Hell with them”), and I realized that the use of swear words is appropriate to create the right feeling. We have lines such as "...knulle et lik..." (“ fuck a corpse”) and the said "...til helvete...", and this affects the listener in a more aggressive way. We use words that sound right and that are connected to the music. And we also use words in different ways, whilst still keeping the meaning intact. "Gåsehud" ("Goosebumps"), for instance turns into "hud i hull og hår som står" (roughly translated: becomes "skin in holes and hair that stands). This means that the listener has to think for himself. At the same time it becomes more obscure and at time even surrealistic in my opinion."
How does he combine the music and the lyrics? The General writes music all the time, something that is understandable having the number of releases in mind the last three years...
"I write the lyrics when I have something I want say, and the song titles come to mind during the process, and often before the songs are finished. Everything has to fit the concept, and since it didn't work out the way we had hoped with Thomas on death row, I more or less wrote everything myself. I had the pictures ready in my head, even though we had to change our stance and what connected to what during the process.
The first that came to mind was "The Devil And The Wolf" and I knew how part two should sound before we recorded it. You know, the lyric is Norwegian to begin with, before it turns into English in the second part. The reason for this is that the closing section on this track is something I want people to understand all over the globe. I guess you only really need those lines when you see the picture that goes with the song. If we had tried to translate the entire lyrics into English, I think the meaning would have been lost. You know, the English language has probably five words compared to the one Norwegian word, and it’s also hard to translate metaphors into English."
I tell him that the Norwegian review I've written had its startingpoint in just this track, and especially the part we're talking about. Almost speaking of fairytales, the General says that the cover for the next album is in fact ready for making and the theme is from a wellknown and dear children's tale. To nobody's big surprise, we're talking the Wolf and sweet Little Red Riding Hood, of course done in a Slagmaur-ian universe. Just like the lyrics...
"The lyrics deal a lot with the devil inside of us and the A-4 (average Joe) humans who live their lives without experiencing true happiness. Wake up, begin to live instead of dying when you're 18 and being buried when you're 74, as I said before. Living here and now, that's the deal. This was also what we talked about with Thomas on death row. He sits there missing the things he never appreciated when he had them. Those things he thought he'd miss he doesn't think of, while the daily, seemingly insignificant things, he misses a lot. Without comparison, but I heard of someone who was on the Robinson-expedition series who said they missed milk chocolate, something they never did in the daily life since they could buy it whenever they wanted to."
What is with the evil aspect that attracts you?
"It is actually not so much about evil, but about darkness. Everybody enjoys being frightened from time to time and we also feel attracted by whatever we cannot really explain, be it UFOs, situations or... The feeling of discomfort is something I like a lot. Even though my music is quite Norwegian, so to speak, it is also very disharmonic and eerie. And as said, those who think they are happy listen to pop music, while those of us who genuinely are happy and have a good life, search for the dark side of the music because we need the balance this creates for us."
Composed by Roy Kristensen