Interview with Heljarmadr | By Eric May
Cursed 13 might really be cursed, as some would joke. The band has been plagued with problems from the very beginning, including record label issues, material that spent too long in the recording phase and ended up going sour, as well as jail time. Yes, Cursed 13’s newest album Triumf is truly just that, a battle against all odds. I spoke with Heljarmadr as he talked about the album and Scandanavian lore. He also wants you to turn off your computer, tablet or phone after reading this interview and go outside.
First of all, I’m glad to see that this album finally got finished and released. You’ve had all sorts of problems, not limited to being imprisoned as well as having label issues with Black Plague Records, as well as a disc that you thought hadn’t aged well and decided not to release. You’ve been doing this for years, even since the cassette days. So when did you decide that you wanted to re-record some of the older songs along with some that never got released? What inspired you to make this kind of music in the first place?
Well the thing is that I never quit doing this. Years passed by, but the main intention has always been to write the kind of music that I wanted to hear myself. And if I ever was to share, I wanted to be 100% satisfied with what came out. Can’t say that the cassettes were that good production wise, still the material was in my opinion; so damn good that it still felt fresh to put on an album today. And I might add that some of the songs are actually brand new, written right before we recorded the album. I finished the last words the day before recording the vocals. As to your question about what inspires me: I think that Cursed 13 provides something that is missing in the music of today. If I can’t buy the album I want to hear, I have to create it myself.
Though referred to as black metal, there are some seriously great numbers on Triumf like “Death N’ Roll” that channel the Swedish death scene quite well. As a matter of fact, it’s a disc that is quite varied and that’s a good thing. Tell me a little about Triumf and what you wanted to achieve with it.
Yeah, there’s a lot of rock n roll going on in the music. I find a lot of inspiration in old classic rock music like The Doors, AC/DC, CCR and such. I also listen to some country music, like the old geezers in the Highwaymen (Cash, Jennings, Nelson, Kristofferson) for example. The old crew of bandits. I also strongly recommend Hank III! To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of death metal but I get your thinking. We’re down tuned, heavy, groovy and sometimes even a bit catchy. Not the usual things you associate with Black Metal. There’s more Darkthrone than Morbid Angel in our music, yet there’s more Carcass (Heartwork-era) than Dark Funeral. We all have different frames of reference.
Let’s talk about the recording process for Triumf. Where did you record the disc and how long did it take? Did you run into any difficulties this time?
We recorded all guitars, bass and most of the vocals by ourselves with our own equipment. Then we used a ”professional” studio for the drum tracks and mixing. I did the mastering myself. This happened during a period of a couple of months (a weekend here and a day there, whenever there was time for it).
I must say that everything went very smooth, like it was the right time to do it. For the next release we will take on the task of also recording the drums by ourselves. It leaves more time for experimenting when you don’t have that ”time = money” situation. We could have gotten this album a bit slicker with more time in the studio but I feel satisfied with the rawness that is still there.
I find it interesting that the first four tracks on Triumf feature English titles, while three tracks in the middle (including “Aska Till Aska” a prelude to “Frälst av Eld” and “När Marorna Kallar”) are in the mother tongue. These songs also seem to deal with pagan concepts and are based into Norse beliefs. Can you talk a bit about these three tracks, and what do they mean to you?
”Aska till Aska” = ”Ashes to Ashes” This is an intro to ”Frälst av Eld,” we decided to separate it into two tracks on the CD for easy browsing. I personally dislike when I have to listen to an intro every time I want to listen to a song, hence the separation.
Frälst av Eld” = ”Redeemed by Fire” This song was written in old norse from the start, I realized that it might contain errors since I am not an expert in the field, so I decided to go for regular, modern day Swedish in the end. The main concept of the lyrics are about how the world and everyone in it will burn at the End of Days. Lots of poetic euphemisms, inspired by early Scandinavian mythology and poetry. I have parts of the lyrics inked on the side of my torso.
”När Marorna Kallar” = ”When the (night)Mares are calling” This is actually one of the newest songs on the album and the lyrics have pretty much the same meaning as ”Frälst av Eld”, the language is more modern (mid 20th century-ish). This song is also a salute to all who work as grave diggers around the world. They may in most cases get their wages paid by the church but they are in fact all colleagues of the Reaper.
You explain “I am not an atheist and black metal is not just another form of music.” So if I may, I’d like to inquire a bit into your beliefs. You say that you “hold the kin of Loke closest to heart.” Exactly what does this mean? I thought Loke was perceived as a trickster god?
Loke has the mythological role of giving birth to forces that bring this world to its knees. His whole existence defies every moral and physical rule that we apply to ourselves and to our surroundings. If we are to become truly free from the wheel of life, we must first break free of our limited perceptions.
The world is right now a place of heavy turmoil, and of course those of the mainstream religions look to a prophecy of the end of the world. Yet, (and please correct me if I’m wrong) the Nordic beliefs follow that the end will come in Ragnarok, during what appears to be an ice age. Do you see this sort of thing happening very soon?
There shall be three winters without an end before Ragnarök. I really hope it will and I hope that I will be here to witness it. We have wars, we have overpopulation, we have environmental issues, we have comets threating from space. The odds are getting better every day, still, none of this is new and the planet has prevailed before but I am a dreamer…
I do have another interesting question about your beliefs, but this one might anger you a bit as it did me. Here in the United States, we have of course had a movie about the comic book character Thor, as you well know. An actor played the part of “Loki” which had some sort of effect on American pagans, women in particular. Apparently, some of them have gone so far as to purchase likenesses and images of the actor dressed as “Loki” and are adhering in ritual to this image. What is your opinion on this? Are they being misled?
(Laughs hysterically) What the fuck!? Seriously? Well, ”monkey see, monkey do” I suppose. What people should remember is that those films are based upon characters in comic books. The comic book characters are based upon someone’s interpretation of Scandinavian mythology, made to fit the comic book style. I suppose that this is quite obvious, but who knows? I might enlighten some kid somewhere. I would recommend everyone interested in films about the Scandinavian past to check out the films by Hrafn Gunnlaugsson instead.
Now that the album is completely finished, are you going to play any shows for the material? If so, who will you be playing with and where can we catch you?
We want to, but we don’t have anything booked at this time. Time will tell.
There is an interesting number on the album that sounds much different then the rest of material called “Agitator (Upptakt Till Vrede)” in that it uses electronic elements. Do you plan to use more electronic elements in future albums, or was this just a one-time experiment?
It’s like this: We have a whole fucking bunch of songs that didn’t go on this album. The first version of Triumf, (which was cancelled) contained several more songs with a lot of electronic elements in them and the intention was to lean the whole album towards that direction. When we picked up working on this album again we had a change of heart and steered it back towards a more organic state. Still there’s traces of it in ”Agitator/Vrede” and also in ”Dead and Gone”. We don’t close any door towards what we’ll do in the future.
What do you do when you’re not making music? What hobbies do you enjoy? Are there any mediums (books or films) that you might recommend to us here in the states?
I like to visit old pagan sites in my surroundings. There are alot of rune stones around here, lots of old burial sites and so on. Powerful places. Aside from actually walking in history I also read a lot about it. Mainly Scandinavian history and mythology. Lately I’ve also been digging into the ancient Greek myths and tales which I refined with a trip to Athens, to the source. I would like to recommend you all to leave your screens and go out! Don’t buy the latest video game or console, book a trip somewhere. Stop living in worlds created by other people for the purpose of profit, and create your own world. Before you can break the chains to your soul, you have to practice by breaking the one that hangs around your neck.
Thanks for taking the time to release this to the masses. It’s definitely a great release and I’d certainly like to hear more work from Cursed 13 in the future.
Thank you for your interest and support. We are actually slowly taking a look ahead, to see where the next album might lead.