Vintersorg's "Naturbål" Is A Concept Album About Fire
Much like nature, Vintersorg's music can take many different forms. Stylistically, it encompasses aspects of metal, folk and classical. The mood mimics the elements: one segment may appear soft like a spring breeze, while the next pushes through with hurricane force. His tongue may relate a woodsy, rustic tone or soar into the wonderment of the cosmos.
Just like the natural world, Vintersorg's music is constantly evolving and adapting. A cursory look over his discography reveals a change to his lyrical approach. He sang his first three recordings "Hedniskhjärtad," "Till Fjälls," and "Ödemarkens Son"-- in his native Swedish tongue. He sang the next three--"Cosmic Genesis," "Visions from the Spiral Generator" and "The Focusing Blur"--in English. Around the time of "Visions from the Spiral Generator," Vintersorg joined Norwegian black/folk/prog act, Borknagar, which were also sung in English. He came full circle in 2007 when he returned to his Scandinavian speech with the album "Solens Rötter," and stayed with this language.
Fast forward to the present time and Vintersorg has a new album, sung entirely in Swedish, titled "Naturbål" (Nature's Bonfire). The album retains the natural, organic elements of early works while done with the technical precision of his English-sung, progressive middle works. The album is the third part of a four-album cycle. In the following interview, I spoke with Mr. V on the telephone about the album's concept, its players, the band's longevity on Napalm Records and his love of nature.
Rex_84: When did you start writing "Naturbål"?
Vintersorg: I started writing it after the previous album "Orkan," translated would be something like "The Hurricane." Immediately after we were done with that album, I started to write new songs. It was an ongoing process from one album to another.
Rex_84: You said it is an ongoing process. Are these albums related?
Vintersorg: In a way, this is part three in a cycle of four albums. We do the four element type of thing. This is the fire album. The last one was the air. The one before that ["Jordpuls"] we were doing the earth album. We have the water album left in the cycle of four. They are strongly connected.
Rex_84: These albums were sung in Swedish. Before doing these, you sang the previous three in English. Were the English-sung albums connected, too? Why did you sing in English on those albums?
Vintersorg: From the start, the lyrics were totally in Swedish. I did a one-man band for three albums. Then I invited my old friend, Mattius [Marklund] into the band and we did some albums. It was kind of an artistry thing. I wanted to challenge myself...it's hard to explain from an emotional basis. I started to write in English. I was participating in some other bands as well. All those bands are using English. After a while of writing in English, I started to miss writing in my mother tongue; therefore, the switch back to Swedish. For my other bands, I also write in English, so I could have the cake and eat it, too. I have this big slice of cake. I can save it and I can still eat (laughs).
Rex_84: Do you have a ritual or a habit you assume when writing songs? Did you write these songs, at least the lyrics, while among nature?
Vintersorg: Nowadays I'm a very busy guy. I'm a teacher. I teach as a full-time job. I have all of these bands and I have two kids. I'm going around like a squirrel all the time. I put my son in the car for a soccer game, my daughter for ballet--just running around. Also, I have a full-time teaching job and all these bands on the side. Much more of that happened before. The main interest in my life is my family, music and nature. I also like to combine those things. I really like to spend time with my family out in the wild, out in nature. Nowadays, I don't really write much when I'm out in nature hiking, day trip or whatever. That is, of course, a really great source of inspiration. As a human being, I'm totally a nature freak for all its aspects. There is nothing political; I'm just a nature worshiper.
Rex_84: Do you live near nature? Do you live around it?
Vintersorg: Yeah, I live by the foot of a mountain, so it's great. I'm looking out my window right now. I see the forest. Everything is there. I like to travel in large cities as well, but I grew up in the woods, so I stayed in the woods, so to speak. I also like to see other things, but when it comes to living, I think I'll always be quite close to nature. Then again, nature is a wide subject. Nature could be a lot of things, but for me here, where I live in Scandinavia--quite far up north, near the polar circle--it's pine woods, mountains, that kind of stuff. Of course, with nature it can be so many things. I love nature in all its forms. It's not that I have to live in this specific place. I think I would have a hard time living in a city full time, but I like to travel.
Rex_84: "Rymdens brinnande öar" translates into "the burning island of space." The cover art looks like a burning island of space. Does the art represent this song or the idea, in general, for the album?
Vintersorg: It's more for the general idea for the whole album. Of course, you can look a the cover for different aspects. From my perspective, you see down into a volcano from above. Lightning is even striking towards the volcano, so you have fire from below and from above. You're surrounded by fire. You see this small glimpse of stars peaking at you, so it's kind of a multi-faceted album cover.
Rex_84: So it shows the connection of earth to the cosmos?
Vintersorg: Yeah, the album is about fire in nature and how it works in nature in all its forms. Some songs are about volcanic fire. You have this forest fire. You have the lightning and the song that you were referring to, it's about the stars--the fire that governs life and death. It's fire in many different aspects, how it works in nature. Many times you can look at fire, especially in the heavy metal establishment, as a devastating force. If you lived in the old days, living very close to nature, you depend on fire, so fire is also a very creative force. When fire eats all the forest it leaves ash, which is a fertilizing thing for new growth. Fire has many aspects and we tried to cover all the aspects on the album. I think we did a good job with that.
Rex_84: Who created the art work?
Vintersorg: Kris Verwimp, we worked with him on this album and the two previous ones in the four-element cycle. We are really fond of him. Hopefully, we can work with him in the future, as well. He is very fast in understanding what ideas we want on the cover. Of course, he's a very talented painter, but he is very quick in translating our ideas into visual art. That's awesome! It's a good collaboration; he understands us. One thing is he was into the band, Vintersorg before we even connected with him. He has been listening to our music for a long time, and then we started this collaboration, so we're really fond of him.
Rex_84: Who is the female singer on the track to which I referred. Who is this singer?
Vintersorg: Throughout the album, we have two tracks with female vocals. One is on the first track ["Ur aska och sot"] during a chorus part and also the song you referred to. It's actually two different ladies. They don't sound totally the same, but they have similar voices. The female on the track you referred to is Frida Eurenius. She is a Swedish female heavy metal vocalist. She has these bands [Lapis Lazuli]. None of them are really that big in that sense. She has been releasing some albums with them, but one of the bands kind of quit, so I don't know where she is standing in her own music right now. I was writing the songs with a female vocalist in mind, then I contacted her and she was up for it, so everything came out really well.
Rex_84: Your music has always related such a full sound, from the multiple instruments to the vocals. How many tracks did you lay down on this album?
Vintersorg: I have the usual set up--one lead and one lead dub is going behind the whole thing. I have four harmonies, left-right. I also have four other voices, little bit narrowed, not that wide in pitch, for another harmony. Also, I come in, here and there, with other stuff. It's going to be many vocal channels when I'm doing vocals. That's my kind of usual set up. I like to get my vocals really tight. I'd rather sing the same thing four times and get it perfect as a kind of over-dubbing effect, instead of putting a lot of effects on it.
Rex_84: Did other musicians contribute to this album or did you play all the instruments?
Vintersorg: There is a local girl. Her name is Helena. I don't know if she is in a band. She is a local, female vocalist that I've known of since some parties. She did really well. I asked her, also, if she wanted to contribute to the album. Then she came to the studio and we did the whole thing. It was a very nice way to work.
Rex_83: So you played all the instruments?
Vintersorg: We are two guys in the band. On this album, actually, another guy is playing the bass. I've done the bass for some albums, but I wanted to have a real bass player. Of course, I can do bass, I can do really great bass, but I wanted another guy from the outside, coming in looking at our ideas from a bass player's perspective. His name is Simon. He is also a local guy who has a rock band. He's a good friend of ours. It's real nice having our own studio. We can record whenever we want, so it's perfect.
Rex_84: Vintersorg has released every album on Napalm Records. What has kept you on this label?
Vintersorg: Their treatment has been good. They've been really supportive. We've had a great collaboration throughout the years. They've given us freedom to create music out of our own mind. They don't try to put so many labels on us or try to direct us in specific ways. They know what we are about. They also know we are a band that is constantly going through a state of evolution; every new album is a new aspect for the band; therefore, we've been very excited working with them. They have a good distribution. For us, it's the perfect place to be. We can't complain about anything. Of course, as a band you always want a little more of that cake, but that's how it works.
Rex_84: What's going on with Borknagar? I read you played your first tour in 15 years. How was the tour? Why is Borknagar such a rare live entity?
Vintersorg: I wasn't even doing that tour because I couldn't get time off from my work. We had a stand-in vocalist from a lot of different bands (Athera from Susperia and Chrome Division.) He did a great job. I watched it on You-Tube (laughs). For me, if I can't go and the band wants to go, if we can solve it, in any way, that's fine. I don't have this kind of ego "if I can't go and do the vocals, nobody should do it." I think it's better for the band to play the show than not play the show, even if the personality is a bit different. Borknagar isn't about one or two guys. It's about this kind of unit that creates interesting music. It's always better if a band is doing a gig. I guess that's why we don't do much touring, everybody has kids, we have family, we have full-time work, so it's hard to figure out how to do a couple of shows.
Rex_84: Do you have touring plans for either one of those groups? I would love to see either one come over here.
Vintersorg: We've done some shows in the U.S., but it's been quite some time. Vintersorg is kind of a dead dam right now for doing shows. Both Mattius and I have a hard time getting time off work. We work in a small city in kind of specific jobs. Our employers don't really give us the time off work. It's a huge process to even think of (laughs). With Vintersorg, right now we are not a live act. We don't say it's going to be that way forever, that's just where we are right now.
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