Liktjern is a band that keeps the True Norwegian Black metal fire burning alive. Coming from the 90’s they kept the flame, but also knew how to join the 2000s amd the XXI century without losing their identity. With a new album, a strong lineup and ideas that reflect why Norway is the cradle of the true Black Metal.
So, good to have an interview with you. Could you tell us a little bit about the band and the very beginning of it back in the 90’s?
KVERKE: Thank you, for speaking to us.
The story of the beginning is as long as it can possibly be. But, in short terms, me and Knokkelmann is childhood friends from the very early years. He bought himself a guitar in 94/95 that he let me try and at the same time it was Iron Maiden for me and Guns n roses for him. We never agreed which one of them was best, so we put on some black metal, Burzum, Darkthrone and Mayhem. This was in `94/95 i think. Black metal connected us musically and it just took off from there. Then I bought my first guitar in summer of 95. and we started playing in my parents basement, we rehearsed about three times a week,and we had some material for a record that only exists on VHS/tape,for now… Then after 2-3 years of dedicated rehearsing, fucked up things started happening in 98/99 with deaths, accidents, psychiatric hospitals within the band and for me Liktjern was just broken glass. At that time.
KNOKKELMANN: As Kverke mentioned,we were the ones to start what became Liktjern. We filled each out perfectly when it came to making riffs together and in 96 we got our first drummer,Christian through mutual friends.He sadly took his own life in 98 and we got a replacement in another childhood friend, Alex. We took guitar lessons at a local rock n learn building were we could have guitar lessons and rehearsals , often we rented it for the weekend and just hammered out our aggression and creativity.
So until may 99 we rehearsed and was very dedicated in what we did. Then me and Alex had a serious car accident that stopped it more or less for years. He recovered fully but never got back to the drums.I crushed my neck and damaged nerves in my right side that I still have today. But it never kept me from keep playing guitar and creating music.
Liktjern’s new album has a surprisingly large amount of different facets. But it also has a strong bond to the norwegian black metal. How do you describe the Black Metal you make?
KVERKE: Its hard for me to describe exact what black metal we make. Its an journey of inspiration from different music styles combined with the darkness within, sometimes the darkness is very present,other times not at all. A lot of the riffs I make is far from black metal, but the feeling and the soul make it come out the way it does. When the darkness is not present, I often create the best riffs.
KNOKKELMANN: It has been a natural development over the years. We make black metal that pleases ourselves first of all,if anyone else like it thats great.It comes from the heart and soul,if it gives us the right feeling then its right for us. Our music can be described as raw/atmospheric black metal I guess if I have to describe it somehow. Our bonds are strongly connected to the 90,s black metal bands, so its a mix of inspiration from the good old days to newer inspiration.
GUD: The things I make are things that comes natural to me, and this is what comes out. I make things that I like to listen to myself. If its black metal or not, is for others to decide.
The band is from around the late 90’s, but the only release we know before the new album is the EP “Kulde, pest & død” from 2009. Why did it take so long to release this Ep and the time to release the new album in 2021?
KVERKE: Before the «KPD» EP, it was kind of a long journey to get back together with the right line up, personally I had to fix up a few things in life, to be able to play, but we probably got back together around 07/08 making music and rehearsing, making material for the EP, Pesta is on the new album now,that one was supposed to be on the EP, but time and money made us wait with that one. In 08/09 Gud came along, as we never had a real vocalist since the really early days, Christian played drums and did vocal in 96/97 until he passed away in 98.
The new album was actually on good way done in 2010 with the setup, we rehearsed all the material and played in Knokkelmanns basement. But for me, things started fucking up again, for different reasons, my motivation just fell flat and I drifted away, again.
Knokkelmann has done an very well job to keep this together, when the material was recorded back in 2012 I think it was more or less just lying on the computer for a couple years.
January 2020 I was drinking beer and whiskey with Knokkelmann and we was listening to the recording of the new album again, and it sounded amazing, good atmosphere, with the essence of black metal as I think it should sound. So Knokkelmann ordered mixing and mastering of the album. Now its finally finished, as a good wine stored for years, waiting for the right moment to come out.
KNOKKELMANN: When we started playing black metal it was never about fame or anything like that,it still is not. We like to keep us somehow underground, rehearsing and create music for our own pleasure. We have some tape rehearsals from the old days but never intended to release anything. Some of those riffs can be heard on KPD and a couple riffs are present on I Ruiner as well.
It was not before me and Kverke got together back in 2008 that we started working on some old/new material that became KPD with an intention of physical release. The years between 99 – 08 we battled personal issues,Kverke had his and i had mine. I got together with others and played a bit on and off for those years,but with too much drugs and lack of structure,that went nowhere.
It was not before 2008 me and Kverke got back together and officially formed Liktjern as you know it. We got Ond to join in on drums and kept going were we left basically,rehearsed two,three times a week and created the four tracks for KPD + Pesta that never got in on that EP for some reason.
We went in studio nearby to record those tracks(owned by an old guitar teacher/ friend).Gud worked there as a technician and joined the band on vocals. After finishing KPD,we continued creating songs that became the album I Ruiner. This eight tracks(except Pesta) was made right after this release so most of the material on this album is over ten years old actually.
Ond left the band in 2012 so we had to work in a new way with drum machine and arranging the tracks like that. We had to get some PA and some other technical stuff to get that to work with both recording and rehearsing.
We recorded the basics for those tracks in 2012/2013. In 2014 Kverke had to take a break from the band cause of personal stuff. Kleven (Gravkors,Hovmod) took his place as a second guitarist the same year,(2014 – 2020)before returning to his own and Kverke came back into the band full-time.
Cause of bad quality guitar recording we had on these tracks,we re – recorded all the guitar tracks in 2014/2015. In our own Liktjern bunker. Kleven contributed with a couple of new riffs as well.
Drum recordings started in 2016 at Klevens place, Gravkors Studios. Kleven and Ond (Djevelkult,Hovmod) had been working with their band Gravkors(that later became Hovmod),we asked Ond if he was interested doing the drums on this tracks so we started recording the drums then shortly after.
Then I had some personal issues again so it took some time back and forth before we asked Nord(ex-Nordjevel,Varde,Nordein,Fatal Impact) if he wanted to help us out on bass,sent him the tracks ,he liked what he heard so he took the bass lines on straight arms.A very skilled musician.
That was in 2018/19. So when guitars,bass and drums recorded,Gud started recording the vocals around the same time,we had some vocals already but most of it had to be redone.
Early 2020 most things for the tracks had been recorded and laid down so I took contact with Studio Nyhagen(Ronnie Le Tekrø,TNT) for the mixing process.Studio Nyhagen is a 15 min drive from home and we knew them and their skills from before so the choice for this was easy.
Kjartan Hesthagen mixed the album with me by his side,sharing ideas and he even contributed with some details in the process,very skilled guy.
I wanted to be part of the whole process cause I am a bit of a control freak and also wanted to learn as well. I learned a lot and had an excellent time during that process. We finished mixing in october and in middle november the mastering was finished. Mastering was done by Kjetil Ottersen at Vector Facilities,Drammen in Norway.Great guy as well to work with.
Besides Liktjern, are you guys involved in other Black Metal projects?
KNOKKELMANN: Me and Kverke have this project called Engangshammer. We have four good tracks(so far) that we have been working on.
I will do some vocals on a couple of tracks,Kverke will do some vocals and we will have some session musicians to help us out on bass and drums,maybe some vocal stuff as well.
Not everything is carved in stone yet so we will see what we come up with in the end how those tracks will sound.
KVERKE: I compose guitar riffs and do some vocals in Engangshammer with Knokkelmann. Engangshammer was born on a beer and whiskey night with Knokkelmann. Its 4 tracks about 75% done, and it will come out later, when the time is right. We have great guest musicians on that as well, so we are excited to release it.You can probably hear some LIktjern in it for obvious reasons, but its pure ugly fuck off black metal. And its a one time project, born and died, as circle of life.
GUD: I have a project called Lystmord, that sometime in the future maybe will see the light of day.
Based on the Black Metal music you make and from where the band is, which are your main influences and what bands are you listening to nowadays?
KVERKE: There is a lot of good music, but most of it is at least 25 years old, with a few exceptions of course, its always is. For my point of view, I listen to a lot of metal, but also folk music and various styles. It just need soul and I listen to it. but, Iron Maiden is always there, Nocturnal Breed, Order, Djevel, Kari Rueslåtten, Slagmaur, Midnight, Death SS, Vazelina Bilopphøggers, Lead Belly, Robert Johnsen. and so on…
KNOKKELMANN: My influences can be everything from,music movies, nature itself and other shit from all the dark corners of the world. The norwegian nature is a big inspiration itself with its fantastic landscape.
I do not listen to very much music when we work on our stuff. It depends on my mood what I listen to. I still listen a lot to the good old 90s bands like Darkthrone, Satyricon, Mayhem, Ulver, Dødheimsgard, Enslaved, Emperor,Immortal, Limbonic Art, Arcturus, Shining(swe), Carpathian Forest, 1349, Nocturnal Breed and so on. And everything from Lana Del Ray, Wasp, Guns N’ Roses, Motorhead, Ozzy, Slayer to newer bands like Hovmod, Svadilfare, Nordjevel, Dold Vorde Ens Navn, Urarv, Mgla, Too much bands to mention all.
GUD: I listen to everything, if I like it, it does not matter if its grindcore, black metal, death metal, new metal or whatever. My inspiration comes from many things, not just music.
What are the main lyrical themes from the new album? The impression I had is that ” Kulde, Pest & Død” was very negative and pessimistic. Am I right?
KVERKE: Its mainly death, darkness, chaos and destruction. The new album is musical artwork with a view on the worlds negative side, we focused around that, its plenty to work with. On KPD, that means «cold, plague and death» the lyrical theme was mainly about that and religion in a negative point of view of course. But Gud mainly wrote the lyrics on “I Ruiner” and its dark. I have written two lyrics on this release,Pesta and Slagmark.
KNOKKELMANN: You are right that the lyrics on KPD was very negative and pessimistic, they still are. Just more elaborated, sophisticated and variated. When you look at how things are going in this world there is not difficult to find enough negativity to write about.Or history for that matter.
GUD: The lyrics are not any more positive than before, but they are more personal than before, a least to me. I write a lot about the dark side of human nature. Suicide, murder, and so on.
Talking a little about the lyrics and the arrangements, does everybody in the band contribute or do you guys have a method for composing and doing the arrangements for the songs?
KVERKE: We have two “pools”, one with lyrics and one with riffs, we make the music first, and then Gud test out and/or re-write the lyrics to fit in, so that is a threesome that works really well.
KNOKKELMANN: Usually,me and Kverke comes up with riffs that we put together with arranged drums to get it sketched up. Then I and Gud work on the drum arrangements for a real drummer to do in the end.
I add some keys where it fits in the process. We have used session bass and drum players for this album and will continue to do so until we eventually find someone who is right for the band.
On KPD me and Kverke did the lyrics and riffs about 50/50. Kverke contributed with lyrics for two tracks on I Ruiner. Gud did the rest. I have just been writing lyrics for Engangshammer lately. But the riffing is about 50/50 still between us.
I think the song “Da Døden Tok Meg Med” brings a cool atmosphere for the kick start of the album. Do you think “I Ruiner” is more elaborated,than the previous EP?
KVERKE: Yes, it is more elaborated than KPD. Knokkelmann and Gud has done an amazing job working with the raw material. And we had the resources to use more time to get «I ruiner» in the direction we wanted it. KPD was recorded in a studio just in a weekend or so, but with «I ruiner» its been spent more time on details and sound on the record. «KPD» is also set to be re-recorded this year, hopefully.
KNOKKELMANN: I Ruiner is definitely more elaborated for many reasons. When we went to record KPD we had rehearsed a lot and was ready to go in studio with what we had.
As this was our first experience in a studio,we did not how much clue on how things worked. It ended up being recorded live mainly and some stuff got done a bit sloppy. Thats why we now are re recording those tracks, To get them exactly how we want them now in a fresh suit.
It was a great experience though,this was a studio of a friend of mine nearby. After that recording,we kept on going, making and recording the tracks for this full length album in our own studios at our own pace. So this tracks are actually over a decade old except from Pesta who was meant to be on KPD.
In 2014 we started working on those tracks more serious with Kleven from Hovmod stepping in for Kverke.
Ond became session drummer on this album and did an awesome work on the drums.
GUD: The song Da Døden Tok Meg Med is a song about my best friends suicide, and its a very personal song, and I love how it turned out. A mighty song indeed. Yes this album it is much more elaborated.This time around, we wanted it to be exactly just like it is. And that often takes time to achieve.
The riffs in “I Ruiner” and the clean voices are something that surprises at first, but then we have an obscure riff and all go darker and darker. What is behind the clean voices on the track? There are some passages that remind me of Taake.
KVERKE: “Da Døden…” is a really atmospheric song, and it catches the soul of what black metal is for me. The clean voices, is Gud`s and he did it very well, its sounds really great. I did not think he could even sing with a clean voice. Hahaha…
We may use more clean vocal on the next album if it feels right and fits, maybe also on the re-recording of «KPD».
As some of the passages reminds you Taake I cant say, because I have not heard a lot of Taake. Its really great music, but I have not really checked them out so I do not know his music enough to say.
KNOKKELMANN: Well,that is an funny story,Gud was just messing around with some clean vocals one evening we was recording vocals and I heard the potential of it and challenged him to do it more.
That you can hear in the end of the title track,he was going down on the vocal chords instead of going up so I challenged him to go up on the tones over and over until he got it.
He became pretty pissed and frustrated during this but I kept pushing him until I was satisfied. The result became excellent.
I think that is good thing for us to do now and then,challenge each other so we really can manifest our aggression,frustration and depression in the recording.That way it becomes more “true” if you can say so..
Taake is a great band doing their thing but there are no other connection than that we both are norwegian and compose black metal.
About the lyrics, you mix English and Norwegian, there are some song titles and lyrics in Norwegian, others in English. Why not just Norwegian or English?
KVERKE: As I mentioned before we have this «pool» with riffs and lyrics. The
lyrics comes naturally either on english or norwegian, we write lyrics in both and we use the lyrics that fits each song when we are finished with the setup for the song. My other project with Engangshammer, we only use norwegian.
KNOKKELMANN: We take the lyrics that fits the song best, for some its english, others it is norwegian. I see no reason not continue to do that,take what feels right and fits most.
The title track I Ruiner was originally in english called Phantomvoice but I did not think it worked that well so I suggested to try the lyrics from I Ruiner instead and it fitted the track much better.
GUD: Why limit ourselves,some songs works best in Norwegian and others in English.
What has changed in the band since “Kulde, Pest & Død”? Band formation, have you added different elements that weren’t there in the late 90’s.
KVERKE: In my point of view its been a personal transformation between every era of Liktjern, when I have been out, Knokkelmann has been there and kept Liktjern on his shoulders. Liktjern also had breaks, just cause of the lack of motivation. So being in Liktjern is sometimes like a travel through the purgatory, as life itself.
I was out for a few years and Kleven (Hovmod) stepped in, and Liktjern had the pleasure of having Nord to play bass for us on this record. There some really great bass tunes on this record, sounds great, he did an exceptional job with that. Kleven also contributed with a riff on “Da Døden..” and one on “Nameless”. But musically we are the same, but with more variation in the riffs, because now we are more experienced,older and more patient, well at least Gud and Knokkelmann. My main problem is that I am forbearing and with an unstable mentality, hahaha.
We have more effects now in the music than we had in the 90`s just because we can, we did not have all this digital tools in the old days. And lot of people have been in and out of the band through in-active and active years, but the base in Liktjern are me and Knokkelmann with 25 years and Gud came along in 09. We are Liktjern anno 2021.
KNOKKELMANN: Much have changed since then,Ond left the band in 2012 so then we started to arrange the tracks with drum machine. That was a new way to set up songs so we had to adapt to that a bit.
Kverke had a break from 2014-2020 that Kleven filled in on guitar those years but that was not a big deal,we came along great playing/composing and working together.
What has not changed is how we look upon black metal,feel about it and compose it. We have the same mentality as we always had more or less,at least I do.
Cant say we have added much more elements than in the 90s,we have just developed naturally through the years.
“Blood Perversion” is one of my favorite tracks on the “I Ruiner” album. It’s around 4 minutes long, and delivers a fucking killer message: It’s Black Metal.
Talking about Black Metal, what has changed in the Norwegian scene since Burzum and Mayhem up to now.
KVERKE: The Norwegian black metal scene cannot be compared with what it was in the early days, it was a very special feeling, and a very special time. I was 14/15 when I got hung up on this killings, churchburnings, satan, etc, .. I swallowed this entirely. And the music was absolutely awesome with the dark atmosphere. Personally I cannot describe it, cause it was very strong feelings around it for me. Inverted crosses I made at school, we killed a crow and we used the claws around our neck . It was full resistance to christianity,freezing out our one christian friend and told him to fuck off, burning bibles, sent hate letters to our local priest. But, we lived in small community and could not do very much, because it was too obvious. Hahaha.
So the conclusion must be that everything has changed. And what actually pisses me off, is that a lot of the people in the scene from very early days distance themselves from everything that was said and done at the time. It much more respectable if a man at least can stand up for what was said and done. And say, I was very young who did stupid shit, but it was like that, then. Now, I would not do all this shit. Better than to pretend it never happened.
KNOKKELMANN: Thanx, I think that track summons up Liktjern anno 2021 in a nutshell.
Most things have changed with the times,you cannot get those golden 90s back. But some bands stands like time have stood still and delivers black metal as it was back in the early days.
Those who get the right feeling naturally and delivers quality instead of quantity,those are the most interesting bands to me.
GUD: Everything has changed since the early years. There are so many really killer bands out now that wasn’t there before.
Technology is evolving day by day and the internet makes a lot of things possible, like this interview from the other side of the world. Do you think Black Metal should follow the changes of the Modern World? I say that because we have some resistance about changes or about online platforms like spotify or social media. What is the band opinion about this? Can you still be TRUE NORWEGIAN BLACK METAL and have an instagram profile for the band?
KVERKE: Black metal is following the changes wether it will or not. And yes, black metal should also be on digital platform, in my opinion. But, different bands must speak for themselves. Its all about making the art available for people around world. If the internet and digital platforms had existed in the early 90`s,it would had be used on digital platforms then.But in the old days, this was not a issue, you sent a demo tape to eastern europe or south america or wherever, because that was the only option you had,and it took months. Now we send everything via E-mail or a link or something,if the possibility had been there 30 years ago, they would have used it.
KNOKKELMANN: That depends on what you want with your band. I think black metal in general has adapted well through the times,some bands still being true to the roots and not getting too affected by this modern world and technology. Others just drown in the soup of bands and the lack of originality. We have never called us true,that should not be necessary. I prefer to let that be the listeners choice to decide.Those who started doing this and those who are part of its history will probably be the best to tell as well.
If you don’t want to be out on social media with your band/music I totally get that. But if you want it out to people and getting known and heard you have to be on social media to some point at least.
GUD: I say embrace it all, do not limit yourself`s in any way. Spread your word, drown the world with it. In the old days people wrote letters and sent demos by mail. Now we do the same, but its easier this days. Let Black metal grow and spread across all the world.
LIKTJERN: Almost every well known band out there has one or more social media platform,we don’t think that is what defines if you are “true” or not in these modern times. It is what and how you create and show your artwork.
How’s the pandemic situation where you live there in Norway? I hope everybody is safe and sound. Has the pandemic affected the production of “I Ruiner” anyhow?
KVERKE: In Norway we have been very lucky, not many have died and now a days we are opening up fully. Most norwegians are spoiled brats and could not handle the decrease of freedom we all have had. If we compare us to countries in the world, we had 18 wonderful months, my biggest issue has been listening
to everybody wining about not be able to do this, or that. Personally, its been the best 18 months of my life. BUT, i understand all restaurants, pubs and etc that could not take customers, but with the same thing in other countries the consequences are bigger, cause they could not be supported by their government like the Norwegian has helped with the «outlife» in Norway. So this is a big fuck off to norwegian complainers about loosing their freedom. They do not know how good it is in Norway.
KNOKKELMANN: It has of course affected things here as in rest of the world but not that much where I live in the countryside. I don’t have to deal with big crowds with people here so its much better than in the larger cities.
I keep to myself mostly so it has not been a big problem. It delayed the mixing process for about six months,we started mixing in feb 2020 but by the end of march we had to put everything on hold as the studio did the same.
We got back to the mixing in september and was finished in november. Then we got it mastered right after so the record has been finished for a while.
GUD: I love lockdowns, getting time off work and shit, had some delays on mixing and stuff, but its ok.
What are the plans for 2022 now that the album is ready and is about to be released? By the way give us the BAND impressions on this new recording.
KVERKE: The plans for 2021 and 2022, is releasing the new album this autumn, with a couple of videos of the 2 singles. Which I have to say that Knokkelmann has done an amazing job, with Gud helping out. The expression on the album is also aggressive and dystopian.
As it comes to the mixing and mastering Knokkelmann also did a very good job there as he was in the studio most of time. We are now very satisfied to get it released through Folter Records.
KNOKKELMANN: Well,we got many plans for the future. We have started re recording our EP KPD from 2009 so we will get that finished. Together with four tracks we have from our side-project called Engangshammer as well,the plan is to release this as a split cd/lp. And we will of course work on new Liktjern material for another full length album in the future. We have some stuff lying around half finished along with old rehearsal material we may use some riffs from.We got a cover track almost finished as well. So we have no problem being busy.
LIKTJERN: We are more pleased with this record, as we basically have done this at our own studios and at our own pace,we are very satisfied with it overall.This is the record we always wanted to make.
Which Norwegian Black Metal bands that are still fighting in the underground would you recommend us to listen to?
KVERKE: It`s a difficult one, but I have to mention Hovmod, Svadilfare and Djevelkult, but I cannot say they are fighting in the underground. They released some good albums. But, in Norway now, the most exciting black metal is from Nidaros. Mare, Kaosritual, Celestial Bloodshed, Slagmaur and of course Whoredom Rife is the black metal I find most interesting in Norway nowadays. Really good black metal, but they are not new and some of the bands are now in-active for various reasons. But Mare and Whoredom rife really stands out as highlights for me.
KNOKKELMANN: I don’t think many is fighting in the underground scene to get their name on the surface,I think many of them like to be underground as I do. But from the “underground” I can recommend bands like Hovmod & Svadilfare
GUD: I like some local bands like Borgarting, Hovmod, Varde, Nordein. but also bands like Slagmaur, Plaag to name a few.
Tapes and Vinyl are back again. The analog cult is back. Do you think people are getting bored from the online and virtual world?
KVERKE: I think that in a world of metal music and especially black, death and extreme metal,tapes, cd`s and lp,s has always been there.
But, in general, it comes in waves like pest and plagues you know. LP`s is very “hot” now a days. Give it a few more years and it will be “gone” again for most people. But in a world of metal i think it will always be present.
KNOKKELMANN: I grew up with tapes before cd,s came and took over,never been a vinyl guy actually but I own a few. Yeah, I think its great that it is back.I prefer having a physical copy of a record in the hand instead of listen to a record on spotify. Cause then you can really check out the cover art,band pictures, lyrics etc..Get more in touch with the band and their music. Now and then I buy releases I really like, when I can.
I think people gets tired of the online world,at least i do. It has its good and bad of course but everything with moderation.
It is a great way to get your music out and get contacts and learning but in the end I think too much has become too easy.
I grew up without internet and all this digital stuff and when it comes down to it,I think we had it much better before all this technology took off.
Thank you for this interview and if you could send us a message, it would be great!
LIKTJERN: We still have much inner darkness to release upon the world. More is coming.