Since its start in 2008, Swedish metal band King of Asgard has grown in presence and ingenuity with an accompanying potency of acclaim brewing alongside their impressive endeavours. Previous albums Fi’mbulvintr of 2010 and …to North two years later, bred an impressed and continually strengthening recognition but new album Karg is where the band’s expressively flavoursome blend of blackened metal with folk instincts looks like drawing the widest canvas of ears and appetites. With a broad invention and sound which at times needs a focused attentiveness to discover all its unique qualities, the album easily pushes the band into a new spotlight. We had the pleasure to explore the roots and depths of King of Asgard, as well as the new proposition from the band with bassist Jonas Albrektsson who kindly spared time for us to talk about….
Hello Jonas and many thanks for taking time out to talk with us.
Hi Pete, and thanks for supporting us. Cheers
Before we delve into new album Karg, can we ask about the beginnings of the band, its foundation and the intent behind its first steps?
King of Asgard was formed by Karl Beckman, joined by Karsten Larsson in short time as a continuation of their predecessor band Mithotyn, a band which both Karl and Karsten were in. The longing of getting back to the roots and close to where it all (Mithotyn) ended got King of Asgard started, preferably in a new shape and with a new approach. As time went and the band evolved, King of Asgard became a sole creation standing proud on its own foundation which probably also became more evident when I joined in on bass and as a creative force. Later on Lars Tängmark came into picture as well to fill in and strengthen the line-up. So King of Asgard has reminiscence of what once was but has taken its own turns and led to something of its own yet with the past still, for obvious reasons, present. That’s in short how it all got started and from there on our three albums guide the way. Also check our biography presented at the Metal Blade web page for further digging.
Norse mythology is an open inspiration to your music and lyrics, was this a determined aspect from day one with the band and what inspired your interest in it personally as well as creatively?
Yes it pretty much was as such. As said above this was at first thought a continuation of Karl and Karsten’s musical past which was derived from Norse mythology concepts, the Viking heritage and the overall ancestral past. So I would say the main concept for inspiration was a determined choice but we’ve loosened up during the years and are not that forced to stay within those frames, though our name suggests that at first glimpse of course. So this was the case, at least that’s how it was in the beginning but times change and so did our music and lyrical approach. Karg for example to some extent deals with what previous albums have done, Norse mythology, the sagas and the age it reflect, but not close to what was on the debut for example. On this one we went much closer to our own immediate historical presence and also totally out of subject and I think this will be more realised in the future to come. The actual interest and inspiration I think we just got natural through our upbringing so it’s there just to grab and pick it up. It’s a great treasure and indeed a great source of inspiration for what we do and create.
Was the emergence of King Of Asgard in 2008 a swift realisation from an idea or was it something which had been brewing in thoughts of Karl for a while even whilst in other projects?
King of Asgard has long before realisation been present in Karl’s thoughts and he has always wanted to pick something like this up but for several reasons never been able to do so until 2008. We’re close friends, me and him, so I know before King of Asgard he’s been talking about it several times and I’m glad he finally got his shit together and made reality out of his longing. It wasn’t that serious to begin with but after the demo was recorded I know he really was focused and eager. This was also the period when he first started nagging on me to join which took some time but I’m glad I finally did. So, Karl really ‘brewed’ on this constellation for a long time, probably since the day Mithotyn shut their business down. To sum it up I would say King of Asgard was formed way before in Karl’s mind and is a project stained with devotion and heart.
How do you see the band now against those early days not only in sound and presence but in its direction and intent?
I think we just keep on working from where we left off of our past creations and further on into our own development without really looking back. What happens is probably that it turns more and more into our own style as we write what we personally gets satisfied doing, creating our own sound. This album took quite a while before we felt where to turn from whence things just automatically took shape. The sound and material on Karg is much more stripped down and riff based which makes a somewhat new approach for being King of Asgard but I really feel this is where we feel most safe and personally satisfied. We kind of step back and rely on power combined with epic moments. The development between all three albums and the time duration has been very natural and when thinking of it one can actually hear what’s going on and the direction is somewhat clear. We’ve accomplished much and conquered some and reached our own identity but more needs to be adjusted. What’s important is not to get stagnant and still feel we have a direction and intent for doing King of Asgard and I feel we still do.
We are mentioning your just released third album Karg, how has its realisation differed from its predecessors Fi’mbulvintr of 2010 and …To North two years later?
I guess the thing is we’ve found a good and safe way of working which feels really pleasant. We’re these days very confident on what we do and do our thing from the heart, not trying to please others expectations, though we of course appreciate it if people like what we do ha-ha. Karl and I put the material together of which he writes the most, we structure and record pre-productions and so forth so there’s really a lot of thought behind all our stuff but still there can come spontaneous ideas in the studio for example. So we’re much more focused and structured in the writing process these days than in say pre the debut album but I guess such is also natural and grows within a band as time goes. So speaking of Karg it all went very smooth at least when we got inspired and the creative force got started. We know how to deal with things these days and are fully prepared before entering the studio and such so that the recording also will be as focused and held on maximum grade. We always want to improve and do our very best even if it many times faces hard struggle.
What about its inspirations and its growth in sound compared to the earlier albums for you?
Guess much of this already been discussed more or less but I think what is most evident is that it is more true to ourselves. We obviously never tried to be the most progressive nor innovative act, not at all but rather looked back and paid tribute to our own heroes and influential sources. We create music we ourselves appreciate listening to which I believe has grown more into our sound and at the same time built our foundation. I think on Karg we reached the point where we are most personal in sound and that sound being King of Asgard with full force and with identity. We don’t think that much or plan on the direction we want to turn, we rather follow our own intuitions and the result is what comes out of it but run with a thorough and careful hand.
The album title Karg is the Swedish for barren; did the name come after its making as a reflection of the songs within the release or was it the seed from which ideas and the atmosphere of the album grew?
It started off in all sorts of directions but once the first say two songs were close to finish we knew where we were heading with the material for this album. By this time we also came up with the album title, Karg, which by its mere significance has formed and influenced the atmosphere through the whole process, musically, lyrically as well as when considering art and pictures etc. We wanted it to sound bare, sterile and infertile combined with what one usually associates King of Asgard with…the absence of bliss. So it was probably both ways, we went with the flow as it started in the beginning of the writing process as well as we were determined of a certain goal. It was mostly a seed which grew into Karg, an interesting way to work actually.
It is arguably a more challenging and raw proposition than its predecessors in many ways, is that something you see and deliberately worked for or it arose more organically?
I think it came intentionally with the approach we strived for and the atmospheres we wanted to build. Our previous albums have been much more accessible in terms of melodies and song structure. This time around it’s still there but takes quite a few more spins to get the grip and comprehend the material. It was not a sole purpose to come to but rather just went that way and it’s more a reflection of us as persons. Karg is a more mature and honest album than the other two and a proof we’ve somewhat reached an identity of our own. It’s both ways of what you aim for here, we wanted it to sound a specific way and thus we deliberately worked in such direction as well as having it come our way naturally, allowing it to happen.
Do you see this as a breath to your music which will continue certainly into the next release(s) or are you a band which allows each batch of songs to find their own character within your ideas and musical exploration?
I think it will continue as well as develop. We don’t plan much but rather follow our instincts though within the frames of King of Asgard of course. It’s always hard to predict the future but for how I feel the work for Karg went, we will most likely still follow this newly discovered path. I don’t think we did such a radical change though but as said before, we’re in the phase where we’ve found ourselves musically and conceptually and really enjoy what we do as well as what we achieve and generate.
Lyrically do you go looking for tales and myths to brew your ideas from or is it things leap out and demand attention more often than not.
It’s all different depending on occasion. But mainly I would say I come across a subject or whatever I want to illustrate and from there start digging in detail to obtain as much facts or information on it as possible. Further I recollect, pen it down and assemble, try to structure and make it rhythmic, on and of back and forth. But, on the other hand, the lyrics that Lars writes is rather the opposite I think, he just spews it out and what comes around goes around ‘til of course it has to somewhere connect to our conceptual worth. Also some things come easier as for this album where many songs are based on and around our own immediate surroundings. So in a way we’re then using our ancestral path as inspiration as well as we give it our reverence; we’ve heard the tales and seen the sites since early childhood so it comes natural for us to use to bring out to others.
How do you feel your songs relate to the modern world and its conflicts etc., and is that something the band bears in mind when writing lyrics or do you just concentrate on the landscape emerging across tracks and releases from their seed idea primarily?
We’re all about looking backwards, ha-ha, we concentrate and reflect upon myths and sagas and our own historical presence…our heritage and ancestral path. Sure there are once in a while some that relate to modern times which could be religious mockery or things that could be related to in modern society and the struggles in daily life. We don’t really have any plan on what and how things such as this are going to be like on the albums as the songs stand alone. We neither have frames we have to stay inside and that’s pretty clear when checking the variety out on the songs for Karg which is more wide spread than ever before. I think it’s good to leave it open and still be able to reflect upon other things than just Viking era or Norse mythology…this of course being a big part of us but not solely. For conflicts, political and what not, these are subjects I don’t see or think we’ll ever dig into as that’s not really our thing or something we’d like to bring into the concept of King of Asgard.
Did you approach the recording of Karg this time around compared to previous releases?
It more or less has been in the same way. We got much studio experience even before King of Asgard and know what needs to be taken care of to be able to get the stuff on tape in the most effective way. As we’ve now also worked with Andy and Sonic Train Studios for the third time we know how to be prepared and what to expect. Entering with Karg I guess the working process was pretty much the same as the predecessors but in a way more confident and even more prepared one. We know what we need to work more on and know how to face obstacles which we’ve learned on the two previous sessions. So things work the same just way more professional and effective and also we now feel safe and experiment more on the sound.
Does the band like to take finished songs into the recording process or like to give them room in that scenery to expand and develop further?
More or less everything is finished in detail before we get into the studio; even pre-productions of the songs are recorded. But sure we have them open for new ideas and interpretations which often come up when you are in the studio recording. The last song was finished just a few weeks before entering Sonic Train Studios but nothing’s set until it’s on the master and delivered. We constantly change things during the writing process going back and forth. Same goes for the recording, things that pop up like background choir, guitars in different harmonies and stuff like that are carefully taken care of. This is also much do to the fact we got limited studio time and thus we need everything done and planned to be able to reach our goal. It’s of course a pity and somewhat frustrating not being able to finalize all ideas and try new ones in the studio but that’s how it is when finances run the whip.
How does the songwriting generally play out within the band?
Karl and I are responsible for the songwriting. We work close together on all ideas and put everything together from the first until the last stage. He writes the most and the main parts and I bring in the details and structure everything, along with him of course. It works really well as we know each other very well and complete each other with our slightly different background and musical directions. All in all it turns into King of Asgard. From there on we bring it to the rehearsal place and further adjustments are being made along with the other guys. It’s always under construction and nothing’s set until the day of recording but I would say the songs are close to album structure before we enter the studio with both music and the words put upon it.
You mentioned earlier that the album was recorded with Andy LaRocque at Sonic Train Studios, as your previous albums. Obviously you guys get on well with him and he understands something which brings your sounds alive as imagined?
I guess he does. It’s a steady relationship we’ve built up and it’s a comfortable and a somewhat safe choice to enter Sonic Train as we’ve got limited recording time in the studio. We have returned to Andy because it is very, as said, comfortable and great to work both with him as person, engineer and co-producer in his studio and also this time we also got to work with his co-worker Olof Berggren. We have built a strong partnership where both parties are pleased and work very effectively together. We are both driven to constantly take King of Asgard a step further and with Andy as co-producer it gives us a lot and we push ourselves constantly to the ultimate. It has never been said though that it is the only studio for King of Asgard. It’s just the way it has turned out and the future will show where the next turn will take us. Andy is an awesome dude who has the right tools for us as a band to use and thus to accomplish what we want to achieve. Our visits get more relaxed and at the same time more professional and more effective. We enjoy working with Andy, as does he with King of Asgard…a great combination and basic foundation for an even greater production where he makes realization of our visions.
Playing Devil’s Advocate and talking generally do you feel that possibly working with the same person in the same place runs the risk of familiarity and too safe a feel for a release? Not, we hasten to say, that this applies to Karg ha-ha.
Sure this could easily happen but we have considered it well before going on another round as we’ve returned to work with same studio, cover artist and photographer. For us it was rather strengthening us as we know somewhat where we end up and what we have to face as our frames are limited and thus we have to work hard to get the best result out of it and not run into mistakes. But for sure it’s a risk one takes and we know it is and up until now we’ve conquered it and also discussed this topic so we’ll see what will happen next on this matter. It’s a risky business, ha-ha.
What comes next for King of Asgard?
Unfortunately there are no tours nor festivals planned at this moment; not the best time of the year to release a new album. Anyway, right now we’re putting all our focus on the release of the album which was just around the past corner, a lot of promotion to be done and still coming in. We’ll hopefully get our shit together and do some shows in the short distance and so forth. Most likely we’ll also starting to write some new material as soon as we feel the time’s right and I know Karl’s already begun.
Once again thanks you for sharing your time and words with us; any last thoughts you would like to end with?
Our pleasure, thanks for the support! Keep checking in on our channels, make sure to pick up Karg which now is unleashed upon thee in all possible formats!
Horns up you all followers of the King and first and foremost, Pete and the Ringmaster Review. Cheers!
Read the review of Karg @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/king-of-asgard-karg/
The RingMaster Review 14/08/2014
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