Black metal music is rife with themes of the occult, Satanism, and misanthropy. Once in a while though, a band comes along that takes a different approach. That band is Norway’s Vreid, who use historical, philosophical and now themes from literature, nature and art in their concept driven recordings.
“We get a lot of very positive feedback for taking a different approach. You know, not just doing the same old ‘sex, drugs, Satan’ cliché that everyone else does,” said Vreid bassist and principal songwriter Hváll. “Some people might not find these topics interesting at all, but at least we get acknowledgement for doing something that seems sincere and honest.”
To promote their most recent album, Welcome Farewell, which dropped March 5, Vreid launches a 14-day North American tour on June 16 (supporting the Assyrian black metal band Melechesh). Most Vreid fans know that the group rose from the demise of another great band, Windir. Following the untimely death of Valfar, the singer of Windir, some remaining members– Strom (lead guitar), Sture (rhythm guitar), Steingrim (drums) and Hváll (bass)– formed Vreid in 2004. Vreid’s sound is hard to pin down, but the band often uses the term “black and roll” and acknowledges influence from 70s rock and 80s traditional metal as well “true Norwegian black metal” for their sound. Some reviewers have said that the recent album sounds very much like Windir.
“I think it is really hard to describe our own sound. I make the music and let people make the description,” Hváll said. “Maybe when I look at Welcome Farewell, we have kind of embraced things we have done in the past, but it is not something I really think about. I just write the songs as I feel at the time I don’t really reflect that much about how they are going to turn out. Whatever happens; happens.”
While Hváll may let the divine muse have her way musically, the lyrical themes of the songs have definite basis in reality. Historical and philosophical themes have always been important in Vreid’s music. Several of their previous albums have been based on historically accurate accounts of the Norwegian resistance during World War II. Hváll even holds a bachelor’s degree is history and political science and taught these subjects for a few years before completely devoting his life to music.
With Welcome Farewell, however, he allowed his love of the natural surroundings of his community to speak to him about what the music should say. Welcome Farewell also derives its inspiration from the writings of Arne Garborg and the art of Otto Valstad, both of whom lived in the same region more than 100 years ago.
“Over the last few years I have been doing a lot of hiking around in the area where I live in Norway. On the start of my usual hiking trip there is a big museum where the artwork of Otto Valstad is on display,” Hváll said. “Valstad has captured the surroundings of the nature of this place where we lived, these forests I have been walking around for years. And while some things have changed, other things are pretty much the same. The timelessness in his paintings is what fascinated me.”
Likewise Hváll said he identified with the themes broached by Norwegian author Arne Garborg.
“He used a lot of Norwegian folklore and mythological stories to illustrate his points. I am not into science fiction or supernatural things, but he used these elements from our history to create his points and a reflection of society from when he lived, and I identified with that,” Hváll said.
Somehow, Hváll found the commonality between a 21st century Norwegian musician and a writer and artist from the 19th century.
“They lived 100 years ago, but I find many similarities in the way they were thinking; it is the same way that I think. In many ways, I have felt a stronger connection to their artwork than I do to more modern literature or artwork,” Hváll added. “It was not a direct subject or a concrete thing that triggered me, it was the atmosphere that I see in their work that inspired me to create the music and the lyrics the way we did this time.”
Although their inspiration comes from Norway, language-wise Vreid’s current albums have been in English instead of the regional Sognamål dialect characteristic of the Windir recordings and some earlier Vreid songs.
“Some people like when we sing in Norwegian; they think it sounds more authentic and they like that atmosphere,” Hváll said. “But by having English lyrics, I can communicate with a lot more people. Also it’s natural for me to write in English, because I tend to read more in English, and I watch movies in English. The last three albums were all in English, but there is no rule about that.”
What is for certain, however, is that future recordings will take shape in Hváll’s own home studio built piece by piece over the last several years.
“When you go into a studio it can be a stressful,” Hváll said. “You have two or three weeks depending on your budget, and you have to be finished by then. When I have my own studio, I don’t see it as a recording session itself. You have a lot of time to record things and try out things. For me it has been extremely important to have my own little ‘cave’ that no one can interfere with.’
Hváll also said he hopes that in forming Vreid, the memory of Valfar has been honored.
“When I look back at my time with Valfar, I don’t look at it as if he was just someone that I played in a band with—that was a really important thing that we did for many years—but he was my closest friend, so I remember all the great times we had together. Vreid has sounded a bit different than Windir, and we never had the intention to copy Windir, that would be wrong. We created music the way we wanted to do it and had to build everything from scratch again. I think Valfar would have been really satisfied with what we are doing today.”
Hváll said he and the band look forward to mingling with their North American fans, which he said are “a lot more open and come up to us before and after shows and talk to us about our music, which is different from Norwegians who tend to be more silent. If people are interested in your music and ask about your band, I have a lot of respect for that, I think it is great. These are the people who make our music alive. I love chatting with people when we are on tour.”
Vreid’s tour dates are listed below. Unfortunately, the band reports that, “our rock solid drummer Steingrim has to sit out this tour due to work-related issues. He will surely be missed, but we have been aware of this for a while and have the perfect replacement for him. Tomas Myklebust will join us for this tour. Myklebust is a maestro drummer who did the UK tour with us last year when we toured with Paradise Lost. He did a splendid job then, and has worked his ass off rehearsing the new material. Hope to see you on the road.”
w/ Melechesh, Lightning Swords Of Death, Reign Of Lies
6/16/2013 The Joint – Los Angeles, CA
6/17/2013 DNA Lounge – San Francisco, CA
6/18/2013 Hawthorne – Portland, OR
6/19/2013 Studio Seven – Seattle, WA
6/20/2013 Rickshaw Theatre – Vancouver, BC
6/21/2013 Pawn Shop – Edmonton, AB
6/22/2013 The Exchange – Regina, SK
6/23/2013 The Zoo – Winnipeg, MB
6/24/2013 Station 4 – St. Paul, MN
6/25/2013 Mojoe’s – Joliet, IL
6/26/2013 The Smiling Moose – Pittsburgh, PA
6/27/2013 Wreck Room – Toronto, ON
6/28/2013 Foufounes Electriques – Montreal, QC
6/29/2013 Railroad Tavern – Keene, NH
6/30/2013 Europa – New York, NY
One Reply to “Vreid trade common black metal themes for art, literature, history”
Great post, Vreid seem to be on the top of their game! I’ve always been fascinated with the tradition of Norwegian Black metal!