Is this is a rebirth for Immortal?
- "A rebirth? Yes, it's a start of a new period. That's how I feel. There's been a lot of frustration and waiting. Basically, there's been a lot of shit going on, so it's great that we can start again. We want to rethink the things we want most. The new album is another level for the band. We took our concept and picked out the best sides of the four previous albums and made something new out of it."
The album is more melodic than Blizzard Beasts. I"m more of a fan of Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism and Pure Holocaust. At the Heart of Winter seems to mix both of those albums.
- "Of course. With Blizzard beasts we were more one-track minded. So, we just wanted to make a more diverse album, a more open album. We wanted to create songs that people can get into without giving up our concept. The first reaction from people is that there are too few blasts on the album, but that's not the most important point. The concept is there, the brutality is there. We wanted to make a more relaxed, atmospheric and catchy album this time. At the same time we wanted people to hear lots of old influences on this album. It's very important to keep the roots and the feeling, but at the same time develop the sound. That's my opinion."
There's a riff on "Withstand the Fall of Time" that's one of the coolest riffs I've heard in years.
- "I was working a lot more in the studio, so I got the correct impression on the arrangements. Also, Horgh and I had a great dialogue. He had lots of great contributions in the drum arrangements. It felt right in many of the arrangements. We didn't have to rush anything. It's also atmospheric. We just didn't want a chaotic album."
There are still plenty of chaotic parts on the album.
- "Sure, but at the same time the fast parts are more controlled. It's tighter."
How did the music evolve into the chaotic sound storm on Blizzard Beasts?
- "We have grown as musicians, so when Horgh came into Immortal he had to play the fastest music ever. He had to learn the techniques of playing fast. He learned the techniques really fast for a drummer that came into Blizzard Beasts so late. We didn't have much time to rehearse the songs. He didn't have that much time to show how brilliant he was on that album. This time it's different."
There's always been a revolving door of drummers. It must be demanding to play in Immortal for long periods?
- "Some of the drummers didn't fit mentally. They weren't into the right music and the dialogue didn't fit. Some weren't that good to be honest, they didn't get better. It's important for us to develop. Some of the drummers just stagnated. Finally that problem was solved. Now Demonaz has a problem. There is always something."
Describe Demonaz's condition.
- "After the studio with Blizzard beasts while we were rehearsing for the tour, he had bought new guitar equiptment. He rehearsed five hours a day including the rehearsals for the band. he didn't warm up or stretch out before or after he played, which is why he developed tendentious. In the beginning he couldn't lift his arms. He was really handicapped. He's gotten rid of the sickness now, but his arms are going to take time to get back to the level he was at."
You two have been together since the beginning. Is there something missing now that he's gone?
- "He's not involved anymore. He managed some stuff for us, but I've taken control of that now. He wasn't motivated, he hasn't played with us for two years now. He wanted to do his things with his studio. There's also another project with another guy. I can understand, though. It's better off now that I do it, because I run the band."
What was the high point in Immortal?
When did you get the feeling that this was what you wanted to do for the rest
of your life?
- "The Immortal 7". We had just finished recording the 7" at 4 a.m. There was a blizzard outside. We went to the ruins of an old monastery and took some awesome pictures with the three of us. At that time everything was right and I knew this was what I wanted to do. Those pictures are on the cover of Diabolical Fullmoon Mysisticism. That was a real magical time for us. The development has been great. I'm really proud of everything we've done. All of the albums have a special atmosphere. We're special and we're proud of it. I wouldn't change anything."
You mentioned that 'magical time'. Immortal's image is sort of magical in that there are winter mysiticism to the albums, lyrics, and covers.There's a winter theme that I find enchanting.
- "It's a freak of nature (laughs). The music that influenced us, like Bathory, Celtic Frost, all of these bands inspired us. We found it exciting doing all the sick stuff we did back then. We were never inside, always outside partying in natural surroundings. That inspired us a lot. We created fantasies out of that, the worlds beyond that. We went to these sacred places a lot and still do as much as possible. It's called Blashyrkh. Blashyrkh is beyond everything."
From the early days Immortal had a different feel than most black metal bands. It wasn't about Satan. It was more about fantasy topics that the reader could interpret and then identify with their own image of Immortal.
- "Things have always been special for us. We never followed any rules. When we started, death metal was a big trend and people looked down at us, But we did excactly what we felt was right. We didn't follow the rules. We found our own class of music, and even though black metal is a big trend right now, we won't change for the trend. We have our own thing here."
Immortal is separate from the normal "Satan is everything" mentality. It's more imaginative.
- "There's nothing against that. I'm just not interested in religious or political things."
I remember the first time I heard "Cryptic Winter Storms." It blew me away. I couldn't beleive the atmostphere.
- "I'm really proud of Diabolical... It's probably my favorite album of the previous ones. It's so cryptic. I fucking love the atmosphere on that album. That was the period when we started, when we were flirting with these strange things. It was a real exciting period. When I play that album I get this strange feeling everytime. I go back to that period. It was such a special time in my life."
That album had the essential Bathory feeling. It was the ultimate Bathory tribute.
- "We were extremely inspired by Bathory in those days. We almost listened to Bathory exclusively. I think we made an album that wasn't a clone. We were able to make something new and special from the first Bathory albums. Later on, the concept has been more and more special."
On Pure Holocaust on the title track there's a section that sounds similar to "Darth Vader's Imperial March"!
- "Yeah, yeah. I love the parts that sound like damnation! We wanted something majestic, something like damnation. Also, on "Mountaings of Might" there's a Star Trek part. When the Klingons come in, we got some inspiration from that too. You can hear it. Fuck, I had to use it. With the "Pure Holocaust" riff there's probably too much Star Wars. We are pretty sick people. If I want to do something I just don't care. Everyone who sees the Star Wars movies can hear it. I like these movies, so ok, I've taken inspiration from the soundtrack. It has nothing to do with our concept. We just sort of took it and arranged it to fit our concept. I'm a thief sometimes (laughs). I heard on the Bathory's Hammerheart album that there's a riff from Metallica's "For Who the Bell Tolls," so what the fuck is that? (laughs). I've never stolen a riff from another band. It's in your mind. I've made riffs and presented them to Demonaz, and he said "oh, I've heard that!" I said, "Are you fucking kidding?" Things like that happen."
I remember when Pure Holocaust came out. People were complaing, or speculating, that there was some sort of help from the studio that made the songs sound fast.
- "Yeah, I know. Why don't people say that about Morbid Angel? They're a lot faster. I know I saw Pete Sandoval play for 25 gigs, he's a fucking monster. If someone is going to beat him, it will be Pete Sandoval. Anyway, no, nothing was speeded up."
I've always wanted to ask you about the promo cover for battles in the North. What happened to the cover with Demonaz and you holding a Norwegian flag? It's sort of a collector's item now.
- "That was from the Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism photo session. I don't know if it was our choice or Osmose. To tell you a secret; Armaggeda is in that picture. He's bettwen us on the ground, but they took him away with the computer (laughs). We dind't have any new pictures for Battles in the North at that point. So we used that."
That led to the legendary winter photo sessions for Battles In The North. No band had done that before! It's an original Immortal, but metal thing to do.
- "Yeah, its on the highest place along the road on the way to my cabin. Actually, it was my father who took the pictures. He was dressed like he was at the North Pole, it was 15 degrees outside! The cabin was a couple kilometers away, so we had to run to the car. We would take pictures for five minutes and then go back into the car to warm up. We took about four roles of film. We regret we didn't use the other pictures. In some of the other pictures you can see the horizon easier. At that point we didn't want to use those pictures. But some idiots think we're inside the studio and the snow is foam! Some people are fucking stupid!"
You talked about you father before. What does he think of your lifestyle? He must accept it if he's taking pictures of you with your guitar out in the cold?
- "He is satisfied as long as I don't ask him for money (laughs). He's supportive. He's not into music at all. He just watches the news and sports. He's supported me a lot. He knows this is my life and I have no other interests. He wants me to be able to live from this, which we're doing now. It took awhile. I've been in and out of jobs, I don't last for more than a week! I hate it. I've been very much on welfare. He's great and respecting of what I do."
Moving back to the album, which song represents Immortal currently?
- "Withstand the fall of time" That song includes elements that show the bet side of every album. For myself, when I hear this song, I think "this is Immortal."