Songsmiths of Battle
CoC interviews Wircki of Hin Onde
by: Alvin Wee
Relative newcomers in the underground, Finnish troopers Hin Onde boast a well-received 7" EP debut _Fiery September Fire_ as well as members already relatively experienced in the scene. Emerging from the ashes of an obscure Storm-soundalike called Svartalfheim, the renamed Hin Onde's down-to-earth folksiness and ambitious songwriting should garner them no little attention in the underground press. _Songs of Battle_, their first full-length effort, was unleashed in August on Norway's Aftermath Music, a promising slab of Viking heroics reviewed elsewhere in this issue. Thanks to Haavard at Aftermath, I managed to look up keyboardist Wircki for an introductory chat, and got some intelligent, mature answers...

CoC: The debut release of Hin Onde is finally out, so you're effectively leaving the days of Svartalfheim behind now.

Wircki: We have left the Svartalfheim days behind us long time ago. The Svartalfheim era actually consists just of the very first weeks of the band's existence. It's quite a meaningless period in our history, but somehow it always comes up in the interviews -- I guess it's a price you'll have to pay for changing the band's name, hah. It was a time when the band was not that serious yet, our first "demo" was released but it was like our third rehearsal recorded with a four-tracker, so not a very serious effort by any means. At the time we weren't sure whether we should form this band at all, but we kept rehearsing together and a couple of months later it turned out that we had plenty of new songs ready and the band was working out quite well. So we started to take it more seriously and it was obvious that we also wanted to change our name to something more distinctive. I'd say when the first ideas came to take this band more seriously, when we started to think about things like booking a studio and stuff, it was no longer Svartalfheim.

CoC: So what are your expectations?

W: I don't expect things to change that much; we are still a small band, but I hope and I'm also confident that _Songs of Battle_ will not remain as our only album.

CoC: How has the new album been received so far? What should we expect from it?

W: It has just very recently been released, so it's a bit early to say. But from what we have heard so far, the feedback has been mostly pretty good and I'm satisfied with the promotion too. You have to realize the limitations of being a small band on a small label; considering that fact, Aftermath is doing a good job. Distribution is working and I guess the promos have done their mission as there have been a lot of pre-orders and interest from zines towards us has suddenly grown. What should you expect from the album? Well, catchy energetic folk-influenced metal in a more mature way than on our previous releases.

CoC: I'm sure there must be a development on _Songs of Battle_, but what new areas have you explored, especially in relation to your Svartalfheim days? You've dropped the Storm influence somewhat, and gone into a more black metal orientation for sure... Was the name change to reflect this progression?

W: If the name change reflects anything it might reflect the "official" start of the band. What has changed since then, we have two new session members: J. Loikas has played bass for us since late 1998 (his main band is Nocturnal Winds) and J. Hytonen, a new clean vocalist who joined our ranks just before we started to record the album. The biggest change is simply that we have developed as a band. There is nearly two years between the recordings of the _Fiery September Fire_ 7" -- I don't even bother to talk about Svartalfheim as it consists just of our first few humble rehearsals -- and the album, so naturally the progress shows. The musical style itself hasn't changed that much since the EP, just developed; I think we have found more and more our own way of songwriting and I guess from now own we'll keep on going towards a more distinctive style. I have to disagree with you on that black metal orientation, what songs on the album do you consider as black metal, as I don't seem to find any? Some parts maybe bear a resemblance to something like Borknagar, but I still don't consider it black metal.

CoC: Fair enough. Perhaps it was the vocal style that changed into a more black metal rasp... Now unfortunately, the promotional copies of the CD don't come with lyrics (you might want to suggest that to Haavard), but it's not hard to tell the subject matter. What in particular do you see in ancient Viking ways that inspires you to write such material?

W: First of all I admit the lyrics on this album are not very deep, some of them are quite old and not very good. Mostly the lyrics are imaginative stories of some sort, influenced by Finnish mythology, myths and history, and some lyrics are just about old times in general, not necessarily dealing with any written myths at all. It's hard to say what in particular interests me in Finnish mythology. It's the whole atmosphere, I think some of the stories hold a lot of wisdom within them and there are many things I can ideologically relate to. On our album there are also three Viking-ish songs, lyrics for all of which were written by our guitarist NRQ. Personally I don't tend to write about Vikings, I feel the Finnish mythology closer to me.

CoC: Sure, but are such things really important anymore? You could write about more contemporary issues, for instance...

W: Contemporary issues? Hmm, well, maybe if we were a punk band... The relevance of the ancient way of life for us today is not the most important thing if you consider us musically. It's just that we find those subjects very interesting and since those are the things we write about we also want the music to reflect the feeling in the lyrics -- if we would lyrically write about something else, then I think we would also musically sound very different. And what comes to that relevance then, well, I think it would be good for everyone to at least know about their cultural heritage, about the ways of life that were silenced. In most countries the ancient ideologies and beliefs are still not officially acknowledged. Also, I suppose anyone who bothers to read about the olden ways of life can find many wise thoughts that haven't become outdated after all these years. Actually, it constantly seems to amaze me how wise our forefathers have actually been considering the world they lived in, the scarcity of vital things, the things we consider self-evident nowadays, which probably made them think about things more dimensionally and made them respect, for example, nature and its spirits in a way that I think most people should have something to learn from. Damn, I start to sound like a hippie, don't I? Maybe I should even things up a bit with an ugly trollish grin, grrgrrgrrgrrrg!

CoC: <trembling> you see today's culture as being inferior to the past? Or would you rather have a sort of medieval, anarchic system than the order we have today?

W: Since I've only lived in the modern world I don't consider myself capable of comparing how life was in the different cultural eras. We can only imagine and all imagined things are more or less romanticized. I don't think that any political system is complete, there will always be plenty of faults to be fixed and constant updates to be done. It's not necessarily this modern era that annoys me, it's just the empty-headed people, this widespread one-dimensional western world thinking, "heat comes from the stove and bread from the store" thing. Everything is taken so much for granted that no one bothers to think about things in more than one perspective anymore. People even plan their careers and lives without ever stopping to think what they really want to do, what they personally enjoy. They just do what they are told and supposed to.

CoC: Now a more sensitive question: considering the themes, etc., do you think that such music is suitable for people of other races or cultures? There's always been a certain amount of "exclusiveness", etc. in the genre...

W: No relevance to me whatsoever. The music just might not open up to someone who has never heard anything about Scandinavian mythologies, but I don't see that as an issue; it definitely won't harm you if you learn something about foreign cultures too. To know yourself is really to know the others too, how would you really know what are the great and distinctive things in your own culture if it's the only culture, you know?

CoC: That's a great philosophy in life, really... What do you think is so special about your music that differentiates you from the horde of Viking bands out there?

W: Our music is catchy and quite melodic -- not melodic in some extremely technical way, but rather in a more simple triumphant folksy way. You could perhaps say that our music is even cheerful. At least it's not very dark or brutally aggressive, but still we have a lot of energy in it. And I think that musically we have probably less in common with black metal than most of the Viking-ish/folkish bands. And yes, we sounded quite like Storm on our first demo, but that's past, we sound nothing like that anymore.

CoC: You hit the nail on the head there, I wish I'd written that in the review! So what do you think of the other "Viking" bands such as Vintersorg, etc.?

W: I liked Vintersorg's _Till Fjalls_ a lot, but their new album is not that good, it's too similar to the previous one. Same with Otyg, the first album was brilliant but the second one doesn't offer anything new.

CoC: How much are you influenced by their work?

W: In general I don't think that we are taking much influence from these newer bands... well, of course everything you hear influences you in some way, but it's nothing conscious. Like most of the young bands, we were more influenced by other bands when we started, but now we are trying to go more towards our own style. We don't consciously seek to achieve anything, the material comes quite naturally. The only things we sometimes have to think about is to avoid writing too songs that sound too similar, etc..

CoC: You guys are also responsible for Azaghal, aren't you? It's more a band than a project, right?

W: I'm not involved in Azaghal, but two members of Hin Onde are. It's quite aggressive, a bit thrashy black metal if someone hasn't heard it. Neither of these bands is a project, they're both real and serious bands.

CoC: Any influences from the other side coming over in Hin Onde?

W: I don't think they affect each other much as they are musically quite different and neither of these bands is so big that it would steal time from each other or something. There have never been any problems about Hin Onde members having other bands too.

CoC: Why does Azaghal keep changing labels? I mean, the EP on Aftermath was quite successful, then came Melancholy and now Evil Horde... what next?

W: I don't really care how many labels they have. But in general I don't think it would be very wise for any band to sign a multiple album deal with some small label anyway.

CoC: I used to be in contact with Morgueldar of Elven Witchcraft. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Svartalfheim had something to do with other Finnish bands like Valar (killer stuff!) and Wind.

W: Wind was my old project and Valar is NRQ's band/project. Valar is probably still alive, but I'm not sure.

CoC: Those were great days, when the music was really honest, but I guess now it's easier for you to get more attention. What are your thoughts on making the transition from Elven Witchcraft to a more professional label?

W: Are you saying that our music isn't honest? [Uh oh. No... -- Alvin] Anyway, being in a more professional label hasn't really changed anything. We are still a small band and in contact with mostly the same people as before. Small distros like Elven Witchcraft are still important to us, those are still the places where our releases can be purchased from; most of the big record stores are not interested in selling underground metal albums.

CoC: Speaking of Finnish bands earlier, I'm trying to think of other acts from your country, and there aren't many who've made it big (in the true black metal scene that is)... Barathrum, Darkwoods My Betrothed and Horna are some of the better acts that never could catch on much. Strange, isn't it?

W: I simply don't know why there aren't more big names from here; if I knew, I would be probably working for some record company. It doesn't really interest me either. I think it's just a good thing that the Finnish sound cannot be that easily defined or recognized. Maybe bands in here are relatively different from each other and maybe we Finns are too polite to rip off our countrymates, heh.

CoC: OK, back to the album. Are you planning on playing live to promote the album? Any planned tours or shows outside your country?

W: We'll probably do a couple of gigs here in Finland, but there aren't any tours to be expected, at least not in the near future. We might do some gigs abroad next Summer, but at the time we are too busy with our jobs and studies.

CoC: What would be a typical live show for you?

W: Our typical live "show", well, we'll see... nothing too surprising, I guess -- we don't care much about swords, spikes and reindeers on stage.

CoC: Finally, what are the plans you have for the future? What can we expect from the band? Is there a particular dream you have, a musical direction or something?

W: No drastic plans, just the ordinary. Maybe a couple of gigs by the end of the year and we also have some new songs more or less ready, so we'll keep on working with them. We might do more gigs next Summer or then we'll hide from the sunshine in the gloomy depths of a studio to record our second album, but it's a long way to the Summer now and our plans always tend to change anyway. You'll just have to wait and see.

CoC: OK, that's all now. Thanks for your time and good luck! Anything else?

W: I suppose it's all said, so thank you for the interview. I'll need some sleep now. Not that I had a boring time answering, I just happen to be very tired, heh.

(article submitted 20/11/2000)

11/20/2000 A Wee 6.5 Hin Onde - Songs of Battle
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