Since _Cosmic Genesis_ in 2000, Vintersorg have plied an increasingly progressive direction, steering their longships further and further away from the guiding star of folk-laced black metal in favor of the subjectively uncharted waters of more avant-garde territory.
Following three years of endless toiling -- including a trio of side projects, as well as a new Borknagar album -- Vintersorg has returned with _Solens Rotter_, a virtual about-face which sees Vintersorg and his permanent band mate Mattias Marklund time travelling back to the days of _Odemarkens Son_.
Vintersorg mainman Andres Hedlund elaborates more fully on his fitful muse:CoC:
The most notable aspect of _Solens Rotter_ is a return to the black/folk roots of the band, a more or less about-face from the proggish direction that had culminated in _The Focusing Blur_. In the three years since that album, you have released a multitude of adventurous side projects (i.e. Fission, Winterclime, Cronian). Have you decided to pursue your more avant-garde proclivities outside the moniker of Vintersorg, or is there another reason for the return to the band's roots? Mr V (a.k.a. Andreas Hedlund):
Well, we don't see it as returning to our roots. This album is yet another step ahead in our journey and we're continuing to push ourselves into new and unexplored domains. But I understand that many people think of the album as a return, as we use Swedish lyrics and the folk music-oriented vibe is stronger than on _TFB_. Still, this album is filled with progressive parts as well as more ambient stuff; add harsh metal segments and some jazzy interludes, and it kind of sums up the album. I just wrote the album that came up in my mind, and I was very inspired to put it into notes, so I didn't think about whether the album would be more or less progressive. We had a strong vision that we wanted to use a different type of instrumentation this time -- violins, harps, flutes -- to give it an organic touch, and also to do a different kind of album than _TFB_. CoC:
Was the decision not to have Mickelson and DiGiorgio back for this album related to the change in direction? Mr V:
Yes, the decision was based on an artistic angle. I mean, of course Steve could have play on the album, but we felt that the material didn't require his skills this time around. So there's no hard feelings or anything like that between us, we simply worship him and are really honoured that he wanted to participate on the previous albums.
Am I reading the press release correctly in that Johan Lindgren is responsible for playing guitar, bass -and- drums on this album? How did you come into contact with him? Mr V:
Johan only did bass. He's played with us for some years now at live shows, and he's a local guy that we've known for many years as a friend. We felt that he would suit the album, as he can both play melodic and support the other instruments.
After several albums with well-articulated lyrics in English, you have chosen once again to sing in Swedish on _Solens Rotter_. Why this change? Mr V:
It was just a matter of inspiration, I just felt very inspired to write in Swedish again and that's a kind of unwritten rule that we work from: do it out of inspiration. Next time it may be English lyrics again -- or not? I don't know at this point.
_The Focusing Blur_ sported almost 100% clean vocals, whereas most of the others, including _Solens Rotter_, trade off clean vox with more traditional black metal vox. Tell me a bit about how you decide where each brand of vocal techniques would be most appropriate. Mr V:
I try to make the vocals harmonize with the music and the atmosphere of it. I don't have a formula that I work with every time; instead, I use all my perceptual tools to understand what kind of vocals each part needs. Sometimes the music demands more harsh vocals and sometimes it doesn't. This time I felt that some of the parts were really aggressive and needed the grim voice over it.
Given that the last few albums have focused on cosmic themes and the search for scientific and epistemological knowledge, what do the lyrics to _Solens Rotter_ consist of thematically? Mr V:
I guess it's the same type of subject that I always write about: the relation between man and nature. That relation comes in many forms, and I just try to dig into it from a different angle every time. On that subject, I can philosophise about cosmological themes, but also about things that I see when I walk around in nature. On the new album I've taken a more romantic approach, but still also a very critical one. The lyrics are mostly interpretations of my experiences of nature, but weaving in man's role in that scenario, how we destroy stuff in a decade that has taken thousands of years to create. Still, it's not environmental propaganda, it's more like reflections on what we have and how fragile it is. It's looked upon through a scientific panorama, but bears a poetic dress -- so it's not just facts and science.
Between the last two Vintersorg records you've released not only a multitude of side projects, but also another Borknagar album -- 2006's _Origin_. Where does Borknagar sit in terms of your overall career priorities? Can we anticipate further side projects? Mr V:
All of my bands have top priority, actually; it's just about different periods. When I work on a Vintersorg album, that one is in focus, and the same with the other bands -- but mostly I work parallel on three to four albums. But as none of my bands are on tour for six months of the year, it works out even if it sure keeps me busy.
Many bands write just enough material to justify getting out on the road, but with your output it would seem the writing itself is its own reward. Do you ever find the financial imperatives of touring a hindrance to composing, or are both aspects of being a writer / musician equally rewarding? Mr V:
I live for composing. The touring business has never been essential to me, as I'm not that kind of "on-the road" guy. I see our music as serious art, and just trying to reproduce it night after night isn't the best possible way to grow as a composer. I mean, I like that hour on stage, but the other 23 are just about waiting, and I have so many ideas I want to make into a musical reality, so... we've never had any financial goals, as we do it from an artistic view, we just simply need to do this.
With only two full-time band members and typically at least one or two session musicians in tow, how does Vintersorg approach entering the studio? Is the material worked out in rehearsals with all relevant players well in advance? Is there any improv involved? Are the session musicians part of the composing process, or are they simply given pre-written parts to learn? Mr V:
I write and arrange the songs at home. Then I record it in my own small studio and present the songs to Mattias. Then we sometimes discuss them a bit, but often we don't need to do that, as it feels like we have a hidden connection. We've known each other since childhood and have played in bands together for at least fifteen years, so we never run into conflicts about our art. Our friendship goes beyond the art, and we share more than our love for music. We often work on arrangements all the way to that last day of the mix, and the session members listen to the songs and do their thing. Sometimes we can of course talk about what is proper, but the guys we've worked with so far have picked up the vibe without us pointing it out.
Early in the band's career, Vintersorg were often mentioned in the same breath as many of the "Viking metal" acts of the era. How accurate is/was this, and what are your thoughts on the importance of religion and nationalism? Mr V:
Nature is my religion, I don't believe in any man-made God or Goddess. To call us Viking metal was something that I never really understood fully; I think that kind of theme was something that I used in two or three lyrics, but most of it was always about the wonder of nature in all its forms -- from cosmological aspects to describing it in my surroundings.