Interview: Kristoffer Olivius of Naglfar

Naglfar are currently gearing up to release their brand new album entitled Cerecloth via Century Media Records. The first in 8 years from the trio, it marks the triumphant return of one of metal’s most consistent bands. Prior to the release, our senior editor got the chance to discuss the album and whether metal should challenge the listener with vocalist Kristoffer “Wrath” Olivius. The transcription picks up part way through a conversation about current world events and the value of research…

Kris: I truly feel this is a time of opportunity opening up for us. We can draw some comparisons between now and the great depression that happened before the great wars. I feel that, even though the American’s are making more wars before, we live in a time where people are tired of war. I don’t fear that too much when it comes to the tribulation that are going to come after the Covid-19 has blown over. It’ll be interesting to see how society is going to react to this. Many things are going to have changed forever as a result of this. I feel very optimistic though and I feel as though you can look at it from many perspectives.

From the perspective of me and my good friend Marcus and Andreas trying to make this album ready, we have been ready with this album since last summer but we decided to wait one more year to make room for good lyrics and poetry and other things. It also gave us time to listen to the album as well. I feel as though we have created a very complex, but honest metal album. It’s very strange to have gone through all this leading up to end goal of displaying the album and playing live. Obviously, the latter is not going to happen now. You can look at that with a negative perspective, but I have chosen to look at it from a positive standpoint. I’m a truly blessed man to be able to be active in this time as this situation is not going to stop me and my friends from writing music. I’m very happy with end result of the music we have written and spent a lot of time on. It’s going to affect the release obviously, but I’m not worried at all about it.

I also see this as a very good opportunity for many people to catch up with stuff that they have missed out on due to the general business of society. Hopefully this will lead to people improving their intellectual level, spending more time with relatives and loved ones and spending more time with books. It would be very good for that to happen and for less people to pay attention to influencers. I feel that, for me, books are the most important thing that ever happened to me. The great gift of reading and getting a foot into libraries and books is something I cherish. I love to take in new information and there is such magic in books.

I’m very much an intellectual myself and my mother knew one of the priests who worked at The Vatican so I was able to visit there as a child. I came from a very strict christian upbringing which meant I came across many ‘interesting’ people who have chosen to live their lives that way. I studied theology at the university in Ümea which I saw as a calling since I was a child. I love that I was able to go and study on my own, for my own good as it enabled to learn a lot about the world. Those years I spent there were incredibly valuable and precious to me. The world of research is one that I’m grateful to be a part of and thoroughly enjoy. I love going to lectures and listening to them as well instead of going to movies. I feel this is one of the best things I do in my life as it opens up windows of reflection which might never have been opened.

Music is also a form of documentation as well I think. You’re documenting a certain time and emotion that’s deep within yourself or you’ve found in society.

How do you feel the response has been to the songs you’ve released so far from Cerecloth?

I didn’t expect very much to be honest. I was already very satisfied with the album in a way that maybe I wasn’t as much with the last album. It’s more been very interesting to see as I feel that many fans have grown with the band. There’s been new blood coming in as well with each release who maybe have a different perspective on music. It’s not easy to say anything at the moment though. So far people seem to like it and I feel as though people have got it from the first two singles we’ve released. Our third single is coming out tomorrow and is very much American death metal style but still Naglfar. That will be interesting to see what people what think, but so far people seem to like it and they’re picking up on how aggressive and hateful the album is. We’re middle aged men now and it’s getting a bit harder to create music in the true way of delivery. It’s very easy to compromise, but we’re never going to do that. I have big hopes for the album.

In comparison to previous albums, was the process behind this one any different?

It was pretty much the same as the last one, aside from the fact that we sent the end product to Dan Swanö for mastering. I think it was our time to work with him and it was way overdue. He’s done albums with most of our friends when we were younger, but we wanted to not follow the crowd so we used Peter [Tägtgren] who at the time wasn’t as big as he is now. We’ve known Dan for some time now and we felt that it was our time to work with him. We knew that if it didn’t work out then we could it ourselves, but it turned it out really really well. He did a very warm master of it and it was very good to have some fresh ears on it. That’s the most important thing when it comes to that process. Your ears can get very compromised and as a result it’s important to get a fresh set of ears on it. Especially from someone as skilled as Dan. It felt very nice that we were able to work with him this time.

That was the biggest change, but aside from that everything was pretty much the same.

Did you work with Dirk Verbeuren on this album or not?

We used the drummer who’s been playing with us for the past eight years now, Efraim Juntunen, who came into the band right after we recorded the Téras album. Dirk did the drums for that album and he did a very good job. He played exactly how we wanted him to play and it’s awesome that he’s been getting a lot of personal success with Megadeth and Devin recently. Hats off to him as he’s an excellent individual and a great drummer. That’s something that’s very rare these days in a world that is very competitive.

What’s something you want to see less of in the music scene?

I would like to see fewer bands releasing albums every one or two years just so they can continue their touring cycle. In doing that, they pollute the music environment as an album is supposed to be something that’s special. We live in a culture where you can have anything through the internet and people have got very spoiled these days compared to how it was when I was growing up. I remember how it was when you got to look forward to something and it had a very big impact on the end result. You took time to appreciate and get into stuff which is sadly not as common these days.

I also want to see less of the continuous charging for items that shouldn’t be charged for. I really want to see less of that as it threatens the metal scene and is very troublesome. An example of this is band having to pay to get on a tour which they’d normally be asked to be a part of. That really annoys me as those shysters have been infecting the scene and they have no place in the true metal scene. But that’s not the biggest problem. The biggest problem, as I see it, is the infestation of people that are just in the scene as they “want to be part of it” and don’t even listen to metal at all. They want a big piece of the cake and want to charge both bands and fans for shows. People charging bands fees to have to sell their merch at shows have to go as it’s affecting a lot of bands. Bands that have not so good songwriting but a lot of money getting on tours should go as well. Bands that have paid to be there annoy me as there’s a lot of great bands out there that are more worthy of the slot. Somebody should put their foot down and say “enough of this.”

This is metal music and it used to be the music of the oppressed and we are not the oppressors ourselves. We shouldn’t allow people to become the oppressors of the genre either. Our genre is the true genre and we don’t need dancers or to be put down by people with bigger purses. We don’t want any of these circus performances that are “live shows”, we want true metal music to be played. I don’t want to go too political, but I don’t want to be part of a scene that’s like some of the things I mentioned. I feel very strongly about this and I’ve had enough of the people ripping people off. It’s very disingenuous, non metal and, in my opinion, bad business. We’ll see what happens this year with all the aforementioned world issues, but I hope that the scam artists will disappear and the true metal people will rise again.

Do you think that metal music should challenge the listener?

Absolutely, otherwise the music should not be made at all. I feel that the music should always have something to say and it has to have a reason for its existence. Maybe some people would say that a band like Iron Maiden or Manowar might not have much to say, but their music has a soul and is inherently metal. Music has to have substance and if it doesn’t then it shouldn’t exist.

Are there any plans for your other band, Bewitched?

There are indeed. We did our first show in 14 years before the lockdown recently at the House of Metal festival, which was amazingly good. Everything about that was really amazing, from the setlist to the audience. We were meant to do some more shows this year as well, but I think that the whole year is pretty much gone due to the virus. We are very much active though, and are rehearsing together again as well as playing live. We’ve had the new album in the pipes for a while now as well, but we keep finding a new song to add or rework. We’re not signed to any label or anything and want to take our time with it. We’ll release it at some point, but Naglfar has been our main focus over the past few years and myself and Marcus play in other bands as well. We want to take things very slowly with Bewitched, but are also thinking that when people book Naglfar, Bewitched can play as well.

Some of the guys have jobs outside the band which they find very interesting. I do some hunting which I find very important and I also love reading books and studying as I mentioned earlier. But yes. The band is active again and we’ll hopefully be playing some shows again soon.

What is a band that’s come out in recent years that’s really impressed you?

Schammasch from Switzerland is a band that’s really impressed me recently. We did a three week tour with them in Europe last year and we felt that they were doing the music for the right reasons. I’m not really listening to much new music as I find that I listen more to what I like and came into the scene with.

A few years ago, the decision was made for the band to continue as a three piece. What was the reason behind that?

It was done as a quality stamp for the fans. I wanted to let people know that, despite the changes in lineup in terms of bassists and drummers, we have not changed and we are dedicated to the music. When it comes to the songwriting, production and other things, it is still the three of us, Marcus, Andreas and myself, doing it. We have a very thought out way of doing things and what kind of music should go into the band. So yes, it was done as a quality stamp and to show that we don’t need any outside influence to come in and change things. We three are the band and we are going to keep on playing together. The other members are still in the band and are 100% members, but they aren’t the core and they understand that. For me, I feel that it’s not just about the three of us, it’s about maintaining the quality and consistency over the years.

If you had to put together an ice cream sundae, what flavours and toppings would you pick?

It would be only vanilla ice cream and then I would have strawberry and caramel sauce, some peanuts and some banana. It’s very easy for me to answer this as that’s what I like. All the flavours go together nicely.

After things have calmed down, what are the bands plans going forward?

The plan is to maybe play a couple of live shows but we know that this year has been pretty much cancelled. It’s not going to be easy to schedule things as I’m married and we split the time between Europe and Thailand and Burma. 2020 was the year I was supposed to be at home, but we’ll see what happens. I’m not worried and I know that we’ll play live again. I’d love to play in the UK again as, particularly in the 90’s, things were always really good there. I’m not sure what it’s like now, but I think it might still be fun.

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