Mental Mercury
CoC chats with Olav Bergene of 1349
by: Jackie Smit
When the black metal battering ram that was _Liberation_ swung into being during the winter of 2003, it was intended to serve as a message. "We wanted people who had lost faith in the Norwegian black metal scene to have a reason to get back into it", quips 1349's enigmatic and very frank mainman, Olav Bergene. "We worked very hard to make that album so abrasive and so aggressive that it really hit people in the face."

A disarmingly outright description, if ever there was one, of what would go on to become the band's mantra, this modus operandi was also evidenced in no small measure by its two successors, 2004's _Beyond The Apocalypse_ and 2005's _Hellfire_. Now, on the eve of returning to the studio to produce their fourth opus, Bergene gives us a glimpse into mechanics that keep's this necro war-machine's cogs well oiled.

CoC: It's been more or less two years since you released _Hellfire_, and having toured the album extensively, and played the festival circuit, how do you feel about the fans' reaction to the record?

Olav Bergene: Well, the response has been awesome. _Hellfire_, I think, was an eye-opener for a lot of people. Many people got into us on that record and then they went out and bought the other albums just to see what we're all about. _Hellfire_ is so intense and in your face, and that was our whole intention with the album.

CoC: I'd like to touch on the direction you took with the record shortly, but staying with the tours and the gigs you've played in support of _Hellfire_ for a minute; what stands out as a personal highlight for you?

OB: There are a number of highlights, and I find that every night has its own special appeal. Touring with Celtic Frost was definitely a major high point.

CoC: Considering the influence, legacy and profile of Celtic Frost, did you guys ever feel nervous about sharing a stage with them?

OB: Not at all. They made us feel very welcome and we all actually know the guys. So they're good friends of the band and they actually asked us to join the tour, which helped everything feel very natural. The great thing for me in all of that was that they drew their share of fans and we did ours and I think that on either side there was a lot of appreciation for the other. Celtic Frost inspired us to be the band that we are and I think it was probably quite interesting for them see us play as well from that perspective.

CoC: You've mentioned on a number of occasions that Celtic Frost has always been a major influence on your writing. What are your thoughts on the more avant-garde direction their music took on _Monotheist_?

OB: I love it. In fact, I honestly think that if that album had been released between _Into the Pandemonium_ and _To Mega Therion_, it could quite easily have been regarded as the greatest album of their career. The thing for me that separates them from everyone else is that they've come back and they've taken a genuine step forward. So many bands these days seem to be making money-comebacks and they just go through the motions. There's no passion, and there's nothing real about what they're doing. Equally, I think it's a pretty hard thing for someone to be in a metal band and particularly when you have a legacy or a reputation to uphold to continually maintain that. There's so many things that have to fall together, and on top of it all people actually have to buy your albums so that someone will want to finance your next record. So it's very difficult. I try not to focus on all of that, because it would drive me insane. For me it's about the art, playing and being creative. That's the engine that drives everything forward. This is something I want to show the world. I want to create a feeling through music that I can respond to.

CoC: What are your views on NSBM? Do you feel like the bands in the genre and their various political affiliations could potentially harm the credibility of artists such as yourselves?

OB: I think that there will always be bands and people out there who will exploit art for their own personal gain and it will come down to either pushing a specific agenda or to make money basically. I guess that if you really do something that comes from your heart, it will stand the test of time and people will notice it -- maybe not straight away, but eventually. Now with the internet there's more and more ways to get yourself know and get your stuff out there, so it becomes easier for people to put this sort of thing out there.

CoC: As far as the black metal genre as a whole, 1349 sticks out as one of the bands who have moved away in quite a pronounced manner from the typical fantasy / Satanic themes that a lot of older bands clung to. Do you see bands like yourself, Sonic Reign and others moving into new lyrical directions as a sign of the genre growing up in a way?

OB: Yes, definitely. I've never felt compelled to write about Satan just for the sake of doing it, and I think that a lot of bands now do it because they feel that they'll sell more. Beside that it's harder to write about personal matters. Don't get me wrong, religion is a plague on humanity and I've always been against it. But I am far more interested in exploring themes around philosophy and subjects that are more personal to me. As a band we try to steer clear of the whole "we are Satanists" thing, and focus on writing about things that matter. What I want to write is poetry that fits the mood of the song. Who knows? Maybe we've been grown up for a while now. <laughs> What I would say about particularly the _Liberation_ album is that we went out to make that as harsh and raw and aggressive as we possibly could. We wanted people to be stunned when they heard it for the first time, and we also hoped that when people heard it who had perhaps lost their belief in particularly Norwegian black metal, we could help restore their faith to a certain extent.

CoC: You mention _Liberation_, but I've always personally felt that your second record, _Beyond the Apocalypse_, is the one that's criminally overlooked in your discography and probably had an even bigger effect on me than the debut. How do you feel about that record?

OB: That's my favourite record too, actually. <laughs> We have started finding that people who picked up the last record went back and checked out _Beyond the Apocalypse_ and they generally all loved it.

CoC: Well, what I love about that record is that it takes the seed of the idea you had with _Liberation_ and evolves it into something that I felt was much more effective and much more brutal.

OB: Definitely. In some ways with that record, I've always seen it as being a little avant-garde, and looking back I think it could be regarded to a certain extent as our tribute to Celtic Frost. We worked very hard to make something unique with that record, and maybe the reason why people overlooked it originally was because it wasn't a straight follow-up to _Liberation_. But we couldn't think about that when we were making it; we did what came naturally to us. Interestingly though, _Beyond the Apocalypse_ was being created before _Liberation_ had even been released. We had actually completed work on two songs from the album while we were recording _Liberation_: "Perished in Pain" and "The Blade".

CoC: So in terms of your next record, what are the plans now for the follow-up to _Hellfire_?

OB: We're headed into the studio this month [January].

CoC: And can we expect something similarly aggressive, or are you taking the music in another direction?

OB: It will be very dark and very aggressive. As with our other releases, it will be more extreme in every direction. We've just started rehearsing the new material, so we need to work on a lot of the arrangements, but at least that's how it seems to be developing at this stage.

(article submitted 31/1/2008)

5/21/2009 J Smit 6 1349 - Revelations of the Black Flame
10/17/2005 J Smit 8 1349 - Hellfire
10/27/2003 P Azevedo 8 1349 - Liberation
3/29/2015 P Schwarz 1349 Trigger the Boredom
9/20/2006 T DePalma Celtic Frost / 1349 Congregation of the Wicked
12/7/2005 J Smit Gorgoroth / 1349 Twlight of the (Black Metal) Idols
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