First of you, I’d like to show you my gratitude for you to take your time to answer this interview, so, thank you very much. I’ve been a fan of the band for many years, since I accidentally bought Helvetin Yhdeksän Piiriä in the year 2000. Yes, by accident I got to know one of my all time favorite bands. Please, introduce yourself to our readers.
I’m Niflungr, the current vocalist and bassist of a band Azaghal. I joined the horde sometime between 2008 and 2009, first as a session vocalist, then as a full-time member as bassist. After Varjoherra’s departure, I took over the vocal duties as well. This was something more familiar to me, as I have always been the vocalist of the bands I’ve participated in.
As I’ve mentioned to you, I want to cover your other bands as well, but let’s start with Azaghal. The band released Nemesis two years ago, are you guys already working on another release, be it an EP or a full-length album?
Yes, actually we have finished recording the drums tracks for the next full-length album and now we have 3 tracks semi-finished with guitars and bass too. We are not yet sure how many songs we manage to record in this session, but if there’s some leftover songs that do not go well with the full-length, we might release them as an EP or perhaps a split with some other horde.
Azaghal is already a very well recognized and respected band on the Extreme Metal scene, but, of course, there might be some new listeners to conquer somewhere. So, having that in mind, tell us a bit about Azaghal’s music and lyrics. What’s the main goal with Azaghal’s music?
Sound-wise, in the early years, we were very influenced of the 90’s Norwegian scene. This also reclected to our music, but these days we also mix this with thrashy and even with more atmospheric stuff. I would consider our music to be quite recognizable these days, as our musicianship and our musical taste have developed. Lyrical-wise, the themes are quite closely related to our satanic world view, terror and even some mythological, historical stuff that has inspired us.
The band has quite an experience when it comes to touring as well. Please, let us know some of the best and worst memories tour-related. Also, is there a country or a club, a special place that you’d like to play someday, but haven’t yet?
Our first gig was as late as 2004. Unlike the regular bedroom / cellar Black Metal bands, we started our touring history from Under The Black Sun Festival, in Germany. It wasn’t before 2011 or 2012 when we played our first gig on our native soil. But again, we have always been more respected abroad, than in Finland. One of the best gigs might be Kilkim Zaibu, in Lithuania or Steelfest in our hometown, Hyvinkää. Well organized, professional people behind both of them.
Worst might have been the ones that have resulted us staying at the airport for 2 days, and in addition, paying our own flights back to Finland, from central Europe. This has happened twice. The gigs themselves were very good. Also in some places in southern Europe, we have had some issues with the (non-existing) backline. Stage monitors are luxury items. We have only toured so
far in Europe, but we would like to expand this. However, we do not want to hire a booking agency, so everything goes either my or Narqath’s connections.
Still related to tours, you’re going to tour South America this year. How are you guys excited for this? Also, let us know other continents or countries that you’re playing in 2014.
Hopefully we can make this South American tour a reality. We have had terrible times with some rip-off “tour managers”, first collecting advance payment from local promoters and then disappearing to jungle. This happened in Mexico and in Brazil. Of course it is exciting to think gigs in deep south, but the previous experiences also affect our expectations towards the tour a bit. Anyway, we now seem to have a professional management and they just had a successful tour with Havok from USA. Looks very promising this time. We haven’t had any gigs in 2014 yet, but we are planning to visit, during our South American tour, at least Brazil, Colombia and Peru. Some dates are still open, so more countries might be confirmed. No European gigs booked or planned for us so far.
You had already played on several bands when invited to join Azaghal. Can you tell us how did this happen?
My first contact to the band was during the demo times. I think Noituuden Torni was the first one I heard. At some point I noticed that Narqath had his own label/distro and I proposed him that if he would like to release a Kingdom of Agony demo. He did eventually (in 2001 or 2002) and we have stayed in contact ever since. At some point KoA drummer Chernobog moved to their town and replaced their departure drummer. Some years later I was asked to do a live ritual with them as their singer Varjoherra couldn’t join them. After this I’ve been with them, pretty much.
Tell us a bit more about your other bands, Black Blessing and Kingdom of Agony. As far as I’m concerned both Black Blessing and Kingdom of Agony have, so far, released demos only. Is there any chance for a full-length demo someday?
The activity for Kingdom of Agony (my first real Black Metal band) actually halted after our co-founding member Dragoni left the band around 2005. After this I continued composing music for the band, but it was quite difficult to rehearse as the remaining members all moved abroad (I went to northern Norway, drummer moved to Holland, or so). Later me and the drummer joined forces after pause of couple of years, when us both were recruited to play in Azaghal. Now we live in the same town, so we do jam sometimes and have even planned to continue the project as well, but the time is not right quite yet. I hope in near future we can create a full-length album for KoA. At least we have lots of material for it. These days we have hired the main man of Moonkult to join us at rehearsals, playing mostly Emperor (!) covers and such things, just to keep up the touch to the instruments.
What comes to Black Blessing, we only did 1 demo and no rehearsals. Actually we didn’t even meet during the recording session, as we were living 700km apart, so it was impossible. I started to compose some new material for Black Blessing as well, after the first demo, and planned to do a split with some band from U.S.A. but it never really happened.We also had some difficulties to decide the future direction of the band.
Varjoherra wanted to do more nordic-style black metal, and I wanted to focus on obscure and raw Beherit/Belketre-style stuff.
Talking a bit about Moonkult, you play bass for this band, right? In 2013 the band released a full-length album named Profane Nightmare of Seers, which, in my humble opinion, is a very good one. How was the response that the band has received so far? Are you satisfied with the final work?
That’s right. I was asked to join as session bassist for the first full-length album, but after I realized the great potential of Moonlord Akhkharu, I wanted to participate as full-time member. Now I have not yet attended as a composer for the band, but I handle the studio production, mixing and recording for the band. Perhaps later I will offer him some of my riffs, to check if we can fit them in.
I have no actual data about the responses to the album as I don’t read much reviews, but people have told me personally that it’s, at least better than expected.
The music itself might sound quite basic and generic black metal at first, but when you really focus on it, you might realize that it’s quite technical and obscure stuff.
At least for me the recording session was one of the most challenging ones, that I have faced during my career. I’m quite happy how it turned out, as Grim666 did good work mixing and producing the sound.
With the internet, we can clearly see the huge amount of black metal around the world and, to tell the truth, most of them are bellow average. And then there’s also, again another internet-related aspect of having everything one click away, you can listen to twenty seconds of a band and then simply skip to another one. For a band, what advices do you have to surpass this problem, for them to stand out from the “mediocrity”? And for the listener are there any bands that are unknown but completely deserves the opposite and you’d suggest these listeners to listen to?
To be honest, getting to know metal music was much more exciting back in the early 90’s, when I was a kid. Now it’s basically too easy to hear stuff and you get to know much more bands that you would be able to with tape trading. Also the bands can now easily upload their stuff online and make everyone hear it, even though they can’t even play their instruments yet. Also internet has caused the fact that musicians cannot get bread out of their albums, but they also have to sell a lot of merchandise, as people can just download their music.
Advice? Well, compose and record your stuff well, before spreading it. If someone hears your music, it will definitely stand out. The big word here is “If” someone hears it (due the 10 000 similar looking bands). The Finnish scene is rising at the moment.
Pay close attention to Oath, Kalmankantaja, Hautakammio, Sawhill Sacrifice and Anguished.
Azaghal’s lyrics are about mostly about anti-Christianity and Satanism.
Is this something that you follow/ practice as a doctrine or do you see it more as a philosophy, a way of life, but not as, for the lack of a better word, a religion?
Satanism is a way of life for us. So it should be to all of those who play black metal. There is no black metal without Satan. Now I speak Satanism as a philosophic view of life, that also determines your moral codes, highlighting the fact that only the strong should walk this earth. This is the nature’s law and we are animals. Satan is a symbol of wisdom and left hand path, that we roam. Only the weak individuals look for something greater than themselves to lead them out of their miserable lives.
This is the part where I always ask a few things about you personally, nothing that invades your privacy, of course. What are your main interests besides music?
Are the any favorite hobbies? What is your drink of choice? Well, anything that you’d like to share with us.
This might sound uncommon among individuals you have interviewed before, but most of my free time I spend at the ice hockey rink. I play usually 3-5 times a week, but of course now during the off-season, things are more quiet. If not at the rink, I’m quite geeky, playing some MMORPG:s like Elder Scrolls Online. During summer, I like to go to the nature, away from people to feel unity with the nature. My favorite drink is probably Laphroaig or similar whiskies (during hockey season I don’t drink alcohol, so Moomin lemonade (!?!?) is good).
And that’s the end of this interview. I hope you enjoyed answering to it as well as I wish the readers enjoy it as well. One more time, thank you very much for your time. Do you have any last words for our readers?
Thanks for the fine questions. Let the Lucifer’s light guide you!May 10, 2014