Norwegian pagan metallers Kampfar is a band which has persistently drawn fans and metal into fully immersive and startling provocations with their sound and releases over its twenty years, but in new album Djevelmakt has possibly crafted their strongest malevolence fuelled incitement yet, one soaked in riveting imagination and uncompromising artistry. The sixth full-length from the Fredrikstad band is an enthralling soul stealing oppression for ears and emotions alike, a pestilential fury to fear or embrace. We strived to find out more with bassist Jon Bakker who kindly shared time with us to talk about Kampfar, their excellent new Indie Recordings album, and plenty more dark corners…
Hi Jon and thanks for talking with us.
Kampfar is at the beginning of its third decade since forming, can you take us back to those first days of the band and how it came to life?
Kampfar came to life after the separation of Mock in 93/94. Dolk had visions of a Black Metal band with elements from the Nordic heritage. He met a guitar player with a complete different background than himself, and they started composing. They remained a duo for almost 10 years, releasing 2 full lengths and a couple of EP’s. Kampfar became a quartet in 93, playing the first live show in 1994. The second wave included the albums Kvass and Heimgang, recorded in a local studio. Several tours followed both releases. The third wave in Kampfar’s cycle started with Mare, a fresh start both soundwise and lyrically. We found the right sound in Abyss Studios and followed up with the fresh released Djevelmakt. Between those albums, Thomas, the guitar player for the last 18 years quit the band. Ole was found after a long search and the match was perfect. Stronger than ever before we are now ready to unleash Djevelmakt.
What was the biggest spark or trigger to move from existing bands into starting a fresh adventure with Kampfar?
The previous bands were more or less stagnating; individuals with different priorities in life. Dolk wanted to go all the way!
How would you describe your sound and the band itself back then in comparison to the Kampfar who has just released the excellent Djevelmakt?
The two first albums were very right for the time. Dolk had a strong idea for the sound and what he wanted for the band back in the early 90’s. The second wave came with Kvass and Heimgang, they experimenting a lot with compositions and sound and with still plenty of folk references in the music. With the third wave came the anger. Mare was a more direct and right in the face album with very clear messages. The follow up with the fresh Djevelmakt continue where Mare ended, with even sharper melodies and more direct lyrics. We brought in elements like flutes and strings, but nothing in a jolly way. Just pure anger!
You have mentioned the three waves of Kampfar, can you explain and elaborate on that for us?
The first wave was Kampfar in the early stage, being a duo for almost 10 years; the second becoming a quartet and the third moving outside the comfort zone in every way, including the change of the main composer. Every cycle was right for the time, and Djevelmakt is Kampfar anno 2014 in every way.
Do you see those ‘waves’ as chapters in the band’s evolution or more dramatic turns, like restarts?
Both. The evolution of the band is of course certain, but unpredictable things always happen and coloured the band along the way…personal challenges, changes in line-up, getting more experienced and older of course.
Can we look at Djevelmakt more closely now, your sixth album; it is fair to say that every one of your albums has evolved or stretched the band’s sound and creativity, how do you see that development with your new full-length in relation to its predecessor Mare?
Djevelmakt is in many ways a natural follow up of Mare. The biggest difference is the change of the main composer and guitar player, but still everyone in the band wanted to push it as close to the limit as possible with Djevelmakt. There are elements that are not to be found on any previous releases. We took a good look at ourselves, taking things all the way, unknown territories but still very confident that we were on the right track.
I believe Djevelmakt was written in the first half of 2013 with its release this past month. Was the rest of the year taken up solely with the recording or were there interludes in its emergence?
The second part was filled with recording and finding all the right elements for the record. Photo sessions, artwork, dealing with partners and making visuals for promotion etc… Putting an album together is a huge job, and we’re proud that we fulfilled all our visions
You are a band and musicians who spends intensive time on every minute aspect of your music then?
Every day there’s duties to be done within the band. Not only musically, but also promotion and dealing with partners, live appearances and press. We’re not living close together, so we meet for weekend rehearsals. We talk together every day though, thanx to the www.
Tell us about the songwriting and its general working process within the band.
There’s a lot of sharing files and ideas. A composition is changed many times before the final result where everyone is satisfied. A song has to fit both live and on record and we always aim for perfection.
What is the theme behind Djevelmakt and the spark which inspired its premise for the album.
The main message is condemnation of everyone that doesn’t follow the rules. The Church dooms you to eternal purgatory if you choose not to follow their word, and it’s the same with the dark side of Christianity. This goes for most religions as well as society in common. Be a sheep, don’t ask questions and follow the stream. Well, fuck that and fuck them! We tell you that it’s ok not to follow the masses. Make your own path! We dig into the darkest corners and the deepest pits of the underworld to picture you that message. It’s an anti-religious, but for sure not anti-human record.
How much do personal experiences contribute to the emotion or shadows of your songs and especially the lyrical content?
All of it is very personal!
With a rich dark breath consistently bringing shadows to devour thoughts and emotions in your music, has or is your songwriting in any way a cleansing of emotional issues for the band and equally a canvas to lay thoughts and experiences out to investigate and work through as well as dealing with more world, Religious, and society bred situations?
Very much so! Everything surrounding us has impact on the way we think and behave. We are able to use our music to fight that trend. It’s a lost battle, but we still have to speak up. At least we get some of our anger out!
Is there any particular moment or aspect of Djevelmakt which has you going ‘Oh Yeah!’ inside?
I have many of those moments listening to the finished product, but when the chorus of Swarm comes along, the warm shivers run down my spine.
As we mentioned at the start Kampfar has been unleashed dramatically provocative and feistily satisfying music for twenty years, looking back how do you see the journey of the band to this point?
The journey has been breath-taking. From being an underground band with many visions and goals, to become a touring band is very satisfactory. Being able to release records through good working labels and being on the road with great bands is what we were and are aiming for.
How has the metal scene changed in relation to the band and its personal experiences?
The metal scene is mostly about trends I’m afraid. What’s hot and what’s not. Many good bands disappear with those changes. Kampfar started early with folk elements in the music, but the Ompa happy Metal ruined that whole style very thoroughly. That’s just all very sad.
Obviously you are proud of previous albums etc. but do you look at them now and instinctively see elements or aspects you would have done differently second time around or see them as they are and only look ahead; and will you be looking at Djevelmakt the same way in the future do you think?
Personally I have never been as satisfied as with the last two albums. I really believe that will stay. The second cycle of Kampfar I can for sure pick out some aspects that we would do different, but they felt right at the time.
Excluding Djevelmakt from the memories, what have been the most inspiring and thrilling moments with Kampfar for you over the past two decades?
Being on the road, playing some of the biggest metal festivals in the world and meeting people that truly admire our music is way beyond inspiring. The whole trip from the basement and up to where we are now is the perfect adventure.
…And the forgettable or regretful ones?
We seldom regret, but there are for sure some places we’ll never visit again and some people we’ll never work with again. Impossible to sort those out some times, but we learn.
What does 2014 have in store for and from Kampfar?
There’s going to be massive work after the release of Djevelmakt. A tour in March/April is already announced. Several festivals are confirmed and more trips are in the planning.
Once again thanks so much for sparing time with us. Any thoughts you would like to leave us contemplating?
Follow your own path and keep your banners high!
Read the Djevelmakt review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/kampfar-djevelmakt/
The RingMaster Review 18/02/2014
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