Dark Thrones and Black Flags - Darkthrone's Fenriz critiques 2008's Black Metal scene
By Anthony Morgan
On October 27th, 2007, Darkthrone began cutting material in support of a planned thirteenth studio album. Two songs were recorded that weekend, one being “Hiking Metal Punks”, authored by member Fenriz. By February 2008, four tracks had been laid down, and the album's title had been revealed. Entitled Dark Thrones and Black Flags, Nocturno Culto mistakenly revealed its name to Metal Hammer. During July, a late October issue was slated. Fenriz and Nocturno Culto shared songwriting duties upon the full length, which was recorded and produced by the duo themselves at Necrohell II studios in Norway. To handle the album's artwork, Dennis Dread returned yet again. In early October, Peaceville Records launched a mini-site in support of Dark Thrones and Black Flags' release.
To discuss the release of Dark Thrones and Black Flags, Lucem Fero interviewed Fenriz via email. A healthy array of subjects were approached, including; Dark Thrones and Black Flags, the recording process, how the album reportedly pushes the conventions of Black Metal, its lyrical and musical content, the album artwork, the follow up to the full length, and whether Darkthrone will exist for another two decades. Without doubt, Fenriz is a distinct figure within the Metal scene. In interviewing most musicians, the response can roughly be predicted. With Fenriz however, the rulebook is thrown out of the window. Fenriz's responses can be entertaining and witty, but always prove to be truthful, irrelevant of whom they may upset.
- Could you supply an introduction to Dark Thrones and Black Flags? When did writing and recording begin and finish, and how did the album evolve from early sessions to the finished article?
- All information regarding this can be found in the booklet, or album cover. As most individuals know, me and Ted write one composition each, and record those compositions. Since 2005, that's how the recording process has developed. When eight to ten tracks have been recorded, those tracks comprise an album. We have total freedom.
- A press release says that the fact you and Ted shared songwriting and vocal duties spawned “some surprising results”. Were there any results upon Dark Thrones and Black Flags you would deem “surprising”?
- The press release says so because, evidently, Sarah Palin wrote those words.
- This same press release also says Dark Thrones and Black Flags is an exercise in “pushing the conventions of the narrow perception of what should make black metal”. Do you agree with this sentiment, or do you feel that black metal is part of Darkthrone's past?
- Again, I didn't write the press statement issued in support of Dark Thrones and Black Flags. However, it seems I should have been asked to write that press statement. What many individuals dub Black Metal today seems to be modern sounding, ready-chewed Classical music featuring fuzz, as well as some nice pants. During the eighties, Black Metal was so open, and so nasty. That's where Darkthrone lives.
- In an interview, you said that the music Darkthrone writes now is closest to “Snowfall” than any other of the group's songs. Is there a reason as to why the group has only adopted this approach in recent years, and didn't adopt during say the late nineties / early millennium?
- In the last part of the nineties, and during the early noughties, I only wrote roughly five tracks. Since 2004, I've been back with a bang. Of course, this meant that some musical changes took place.
- In writing your tracks for Dark Thrones and Black Flags, what lyrical themes and issues did you touch upon?
- Well, I can only touch upon the lyrics I personally wrote. One set of lyrics was old, and concerned the most annoying guy in Metal Norway (what a cad). Another track concerns the scene; these days, I write many lyrics whiich deal with scene-politics. This is heavily inspired by lifting weights whilst listening to Judge, hehe. I also wrote a track regarding a visit I made to Oscar and Tim of OLD, and “Hiking Metal Punks”, concerning my lifestyle in the 1560 square kilometres of forests within Olso. Another track I wrote touches upon the scene.
- Upon F.O.A.D., Punk influences were prevalent. Which groups, and musical styles, influenced your tracks upon Dark Thrones and Black Flags, and how did they influence those tracks?
- If we take a deep breath and perform a serious analysis, it's evident that 2005's The Cult Is Alive boasted more Punk elements than 2007's Fuck Off and Die, and the latter boasts more Punk elements than Dark Thrones and Black Flags. My attitude is extremely Punk oriented, however; we mostly handle things ourselves, and dare to let mistakes be alright. I don't even rehearse my vocals; usually, the first time I sing vocals to a track, those same vocals surface upon the recorded version.
- How would you compare and contrast the tracks you wrote for Dark Thrones and Black Flags against those which Ted wrote?
- Ted and me write extremely different tracks, and we always have. As I said, we pen one composition each, and subsequently meet to record those compositions. Nothing is planned; I'm never aware of the tracks he's written, and he's rarely heard the riffs I've written prior to recording. No plan, and no control - excessively controlling nature is a typical Christian activity. As we write more and more tracks, I feel that we need balance, and variation. If Ted writes slower material, then I let my slower riffs wait, and if I've written a quicker paced (nowadays, only Motörhead-fast speed is cool from my standpoint) track, then that's the track I champion.
- In what ways does Dark Thrones and Black Flags “further perfect the art of the riff”?
- Within the cover, it says all regarding that. Usually, riffs plunge into my mind. If I feel that initial idea is strong enough, I slowly begin to write a track. These days, I'm always working upon a track, but no more than one to two at any given time. I only write tracks on acoustic guitar.
- Dennis Dread handled album artwork once again. What formed the inspiration for Dark Thrones and Black Flags's artwork, and what are feelings towards the finished result?
- Once again, Dennis came through for us - fantastic. After I began to handle the cover artwork again (after 1995, I didn't handle cover artwork, but began to do so once again in support of F. O. A. D.), I wanted to make fat, chunky bootlets, as well as flip the “totalitarian design” the bird. Fuck it. I hope Dennis will design our next album cover too.. I hope, I hope. I don't like to control the artist; I just told Dennis the album would be called Dark Thrones and Black Flags, and said that I wanted our “Mr. Necro” to pull a carriage in a “bring out your dead" vein.
- Has any material been written and recorded in support of the follow up to Dark Thrones and Black Flags?
- I have an extremely clear working title, as well as an idea regarding the cover idea. We don't make plans however, and take things one day at a time. Since June 2008, I've been working and mulling over my inaugural track. I can spend a month merely deciding whether the final part of a track should be slow, or fast like the rest. I always feel as though I want variation, given the fact I've always loved that about Metal. When I've finished writing a collection of tracks, it seems as though my tracks have one tempo, and that works best. Very fucking strange. In December 2008, we hope to begin cutting our initial two tracks. In all likelihood, my first track will be named “Too Much Black, Too Little Metal” - like Gezol (Metalucifer mainman) says, this has been so called Black Metal's central problem since 1990.
- Darkthrone has been in existence for twenty years. Do you feel that Darkthrone will exist for another twenty years?
- Darkthrone will possibly use some more dynamic soundscape - since 1988, I've pictured this approach. It takes quite much time, however. It seems as though I was destined to pen dirty Metal in an eighties vein. Rock / Metal styles from 1963 to 1989 mainly interest me, as well as some material by Norway's Virus, and Burzum. They're the styles I enjoy, but bear in mind that I listen to roughly forty-five new albums every month (new meaning something I haven't heard before, mostly from a long time time ago). Very slowly, it seems as though I'm returning towards Rock and Metal's past.