Sweden’s Dark Funeral can never be too far away from the place, ‘Where Shadows Forever Reign’ and for more than twenty years, the hell-hounds around mastermind and axeswinger Lord Ahriman have been occupying the darkest corners of the Black Metal scene. Even though the band went through multiple line-up changes, they always stick to their harsh, powerful and brutal style and with their new vocalist Heljarmadr, the kings of Scandinavian darkness are about to unleash their personal hell for the sixth time.
Metal Wani’s Anne Catherine Swallow had a chat with the legendary Lord Ahriman about his newest masterpiece ‘Where Shadows Forever Reign’, its songs and artwork, but also about some (fake) screenshots showing a twitter discussion between him and Justin Bieber. But Ahriman is an open-minded metalhead and therefor he explains how his reaction would look like, if Bieber indeed showed up at one of his shows, that are not as bloody and packed with dead pigs as they once used to be, but for a very simple reason. Of course, we also took the chance to discuss his views on religion and fundamentalism, as well as few aspects of Satanism and why he considers Anton LaVey‘s thesis to contain solid morals for raising independent, mentally stable children.
Once again you released a brutal masterpiece and the fans already love every single teaser, after they waited for almost seven years. Did it take you longer this time to write the material or did you just need a little break after several line-up changes?
Lots of things have been going on, but we were never really gone. We toured until 2014 and released „Nail Them To The Cross“ last year, so the gap between the last album and this one didn’t seem so long for us. But of course, there have been times when it was quiet… while we were looking for a new vocalist. And sometimes you have to concentrate on personal shit around you too, but for me it didn’t seem like a long time in which we weren’t in the public eye.
Let’s go a bit into album details, if you don’t mind – the track „Beast Above Man“ seems very interesting, musically and the title itself. Is it a song about the fight between nature and humans?
In a way, yes. We always had a take on humans bringing forth the beast from inside, but lyrically Heljarmadr could tell you more about this, since he wrote the lyrics. When it comes to the music, I agree with you. While composing this song, I already noticed, that it would become a hell of an angry track and bring out the darkest sides of this album.
Just recently you posted a screenshot of a Twitter conversation between you and Justin Bieber. I suppose it was fake, because I couldn’t find it on the real Twitter accounts, but assuming that Bieber would indeed come up to you after a show to tell you that he loves Dark Funeral – what would be your reaction?
I would obviously be very surprised, but to be honest, when we are on tour, we see lots of different people coming to our shows. Chief officers, bank managers, you never know what people do in their normal life. But if I can reach out to such people – or fans who usually prefer pop music – without making compromises with our sound, that’s great and I don’t mind at all.
What was therefor the weirdest fan experience that you ever had?
I guess, what really had an impression on me, was meeting my own idols. It still remember, sitting in my old room in Sweden, with posters on my walls and worshiping my favorite bands at that time – from Judas Priest to German Thrash. And when these guys come up to you after a show and tell you that they enjoyed the set, it’s a very surrealistic feeling and even after knowing these musicians for many years, I often wonder „Is this really happening right now?“
Just two days ago, you posted a picture on your Facebook page saying „Take 1“ – a little hint, that we can expect a music video soon?
Yes, it was a hint – we considered it quite obvious, but not everyone seemed to understand it. I don’t know… but I can’t give you any detailed information yet, you just have to wait and see.
Once again you worked with Necrolord for your album artwork – how is the usual process, do you come up with an idea and he illustrates it or do you just deliver the music and let him get inspired?
When we sat together to talk about the artwork of this record, we noticed that it would actually be the 20th anniversary of ‘The Secrets Of The Black Arts’, when this album will be released and therefor we wanted to do something in a similar style. But he said „Before I can start with sketches, you need to provide me with some music, because I want to get inspired by it“, so we send him over a few tracks and lyrics. But he kept us in the dark the whole time and we had no idea what he was doing and that really stressed us out, especially me. I just wondered what would happen, if we get it on the deadline day and it sucked – or if it just wouldn’t match the visual style that we had in mind. But then it came in the mail box one day and I immediately loved it and knew, it would work out very well. Also with the title track. It was just a perfect match. Well, I was always very happy with our artworks, to be honest. Fans often say we had a „Blue Period“ and and „Orange Period“. We actually had a concept behind three of our cover artworks and all have a very important meaning, but it always has to match the music and concept.
Speaking of visual aspects, at the beginning of your career you had very dramatic live shows, with fire and blood, but within the last years you concentrated more on the music itself and there are no more stage effects or extra gimmicks – why did you change this?
If we did the same thing over and over again, people would get bored. Actually I have lots of ideas in my mind, to bring fucking hell on stage, but it’s a matter of cost and logistics… often you can’t just carry around hundreds of things on a European tour. If ideas get too expensive, it’s just not possible anymore and we would spend all the income of a show into stage effects – we hope that it will be possible one day though, because we have some insane ideas and wicked things to fill the hour and a half of our show.
Recently, Satyricon said, they consider it quite disappointing that many fans still prefer their first albums, even though the quality of their songs evolved immensely during their career. Is it the same for Dark Funeral? Does the nostalgia in the black metal scene bother you?
Not at all, but I don’t think this affected us so much. It’s a matter of different generations, I guess. I know, people wanna hear „Open The Gates“ and I’m going to hear that forever, but that’s okay and
it’s a song that had a great impact and made us the band we are today. But we also had tracks on our last albums, that were even more successful, „My Funeral“ or „666 Voices Inside“, these are songs that people seem to love even more nowadays, than the ones on our first records. I think it’s important to find a good balance during our shows, you need old classics but also fresh songs to avoid repeating yourself. Some fans even hate the first couple of records that we made – usually, they are a little younger and just come from a different generation.
Within your entire career you have been criticizing forms of organized religion and today this becomes more and more relevant, due to fundamentalism, terrorism, etc. Why do you think, do people still fall for religion in the year 2016?
It seems, that people are getting more and more weaker. If someone from the church is able to take over your brain and control it, this is a sign of weakness for me. Humans have developed so much and we’ve come so far within the last decades, yet people seem to turn around and get back to the Middle Ages and I just don’t understand, what’s going on. It’s so weird for me.
You stressed the word ‘weakness’ and LaVey’s Satanism is mostly about strong individuals, independent minds – you have children yourself and I guess you meet lots of young fans during your shows, so how is it possible, in your opinion, to raise an individual with a strong character these days?
I guess, there are several ways. Some people believe, you can raise strong children by telling them, how to do things, but in my opinion, it’s the opposite way. The more free will you have as a human being, the stronger you will be. You have to find your own path and not let other people tell you what to do. I wouldn’t say, that it scares me, but religion certainly irritates me. Here in Sweden, religion is getting less and less attention and I see this as a good sign, since people seem to stand on their own feet now. But in other parts, development is running backwards and when I watch the news, I just think it’s a crazy world at the moment.
Do you still have ambitions to change the world?
I change the world with very tiny steps every day, we have to do something to get some kind of attention. In a world, where people blindly follow, I see us to be the alarm clock. What are we doing, where are we heading. can we do things in a different way? It’s not just about following some guy that lived 2000 years ago. So if we can be that little something that makes people think twice about their actions, then we are satisfied.