For more than 20 years, Norway’s Svarttjern have done things their way and without a care to give as to what anyone thinks about it. Beholden to no particular ideologies or ism’s, for the Svarttjern camp, black metal is about freedom and expression first and foremost. An endeavor based on personal experiences and stories of darkness and depravity. Shame is just a word! And this band’s overall attitude is about as black metal as it gets.
The Norwegian black metal scene is renowned for obvious reasons. It’s one of the original schools of black metal and its artists are known for their misanthropic and oft times straightforward, no BS way of dealing with journalists like myself. A breath of fresh air if you ask me. I’ve learned much through these types of discussions, and one can’t help but feel a little intimidated going in, but that’s the sheer beauty of it. It’s black metal terror, not black metal teddy bear. Bands like Svarttjern are literally keeping the level of danger alive within the scene as they deliver the most raunchy, provocative material and live performances. During my latest interview, Guitarist and founding member HaaN and drummer Audun provide some insight into their relationship with black metal, some of their influences, their latest album, “Shame Is Just a Word” and some thoughts on the current scene.
Hails and welcome. Svarttjern is a unique musical entity in comparison to most other Norwegian black metal bands. Many of the scene’s progenitors obviously took influence from early Bathory, Venom and Celtic Frost/Hellhammer recordings, but I feel like Svarttjern is more inspired by the early thrash era. Do you take much inspiration from the first wave or early second wave?
HaaN: Thanks! Well, answering about inspiration/ influence is always difficult, as it changes and is ever evolving. But yes – Early thrash has always been an inspiration, and to this day I more often listen to thrash than black metal, in the event I am listening to metal at all. As for which wave – I have no idea. Keep in mind we have been writing songs for this band for the last 20+ years – It is not like we listen to this or that black metal release and get inspired. We are past that.
Your debut full-length LP, “Misanthropic Path of Madness” is, in my opinion, the perfect representation of what modern BM should stand for. It’s provocative, misanthropic and hate- fueled to the core. Cover art censored and just a nasty record altogether. Where does all the hate come from?
HaaN: Thanks, and I agree. Well, Misanthropic has a special story at least when you compare it to our other albums – We spent such an insane amount of time in the rehearsal room just constantly playing. We were at a very different stage in our lives in comparison to where we are now – back then with zero commitments. No family/ work-life – For good or bad. We accumulated riffs and songs for years, and just fitted in the pieces of the puzzle for the best possible album. I vividly remember visiting the studio after Audun was done with the drums and hearing a “rough” mix of the track Code Human and just thinking – this sounds insane.
Do you feel like mainstream black metal bands and the powerhouse labels who represent them are watering down such aggression by making BM accessible and therefore less treacherous?
HaaN: Do not pay too much attention to the scene- I sometimes, due to my perverse curiosity, torture myself to try to “discover” new black metal bands, which I quickly remember I do not need this. Not trying to sound like this “edgy”, “cool” guy who only listens to old stuff. I am sure there are a few treacherous black metal albums being released, I just do not have the time, need or capacity to follow up on new bands.
We have our take on black metal, others have different – Svarttjern is not on any crusade “saving” black metal and especially not any so-called “trve kvlt” nonsense . And in my opinion the term is already so washed out with a bare minimum of bands bringing anything to the table. Us included. As for powerhouse labels, I have no idea – the industry is evolving – In which at least in my opinion the labels have lost at least parts of their power and going independent has never been easier.
Let’s get into your latest album, “Shame Is Just a Word”, which was released in 2020. Now, if I’m not mistaken, this record seems to be inspired by personal experiences; those legendary and oftentimes downright depraved moments. So, what can you tell us about “Prince of Disgust”? In The States we call it “going hogging”.
HaaN: That is exactly right! “Shame Is Just a Word” is just a big zero f~cks given to both the “scene” and society. Might be us getting older, grumpier, fatter, balder and just not caring. Doing stupid sh~t and making mistakes is such a natural part of being a human being. And for some reason, and possibly due to these new dogmas and doctrines society is inflicting on us – everyone is expected to just be perfect. Creating this ridiculous appearance. Just own your depraved moments, embrace them, nurture them, nurse them. Will not risk any repercussions from HansFyrste answering about the actual story of Prince of disgust, hehe.
It’s been a few years now since the release of your latest album. Can we expect a new record anytime soon, and if so, what kind of desecrations and abominations can we expect?
HaaN: Actually started tip-toeing into making a new record. And as always we will deliver both desecrations and abominations! We will not reinvent ourselves. I promise. As mentioned we have our take on black metal, and will do and deliver exactly that. As for when completed, hard to say, but I can at least say everyone is on board and pulling their weight.
Taake once said in so many words that the pentagram and the inverted cross no longer illicit reactions, so bands need to get creative. I can see his point. However, I feel like BM should always be organic. If you’re not dangerous, don’t try to be. Would you agree?
Audun: Yes, I do agree. I also understand the point Taake was making. Not sure when that quote is from, but crosses and pentagrams are quite boring these days. However, I find that bands that focus too much on shocking the audience are often quite boring in every other aspect, and the whole thing is reduced to a “who has the bigger ….” contest. “Hi! And welcome to the Black Metal edition of Jackass!”
Svarttjern has a history of using certain props on stage as well, but it is more about painting a canvas matching the lyrics and sound of the band. Not to evoke reactions from insiders or outsiders of the scene.
I always like to talk about Satanism, which is an ism by which Svarttjern seems to be inspired. What’s your relationship with Satanism and how has it influenced the band?
Audun: Inspired by Satanism? Not so sure about that one. Satanism means so many different things to different people, so without any clear definition, I don’t think we are. We have no relation to any particular ism. Any lyrical link to religion and/or Satan is personal and not, intentionally at least, compatible with any teachings. Which is kind of the whole philosophy of the band. Not to follow any internal or external paradigms.
What’s the greatest, proudest or even the most insane memory you have of being in Svarttjern?
HaaN: Hard to pick one to be honest. I have tons of good, bad and insane memories when thinking back on the band’s 20+ year history. And I would think you would get four different answers had you asked the other members as well. A couple that do stand out for me on a personal level is getting our first record deal, playing at Inferno in 2009, and the release show of “Misanthropic Path of Madness” at the legendary Elm Street cafe in Oslo with Nattefrost and Taake on the bill.
As an artist who’s obviously in touch with the scene and who knows how true black metal is made, how do you feel about the current state of BM and how do you foresee its future?
Audun: True black metal. What even is that anymore? I sure as hell don’t know and frankly don’t care. Though many would agree, certainly a lot of people also would dispute that Svarttjern is “true” black metal. Zero f~cks given. I think that the black metal scene in general is looking quite good at the moment. Even though you get tired of this genre at times, like how a Mcdonald’s employee surely would gag at the sight of a Big Mac. Some new bands bring new life and fresh approaches to the scene. Like Kanonenfieber from Germany. We played alongside them with Carpathian Forest a couple of times this year. Great band. So if people continue to bring this kind of quality into the scene. The future’s looking, dare I say it… bright!
Do you have a message for the horde?
HaaN: Hey! Thanks for the interview and urge you all to give Svarttjern a sonic sniff, or don’t…
A special thank you to HaaN, Audun and Svarttjern.
Experience “Shame Is Just a Word” by Svarttjern right here as presented by Soulseller Records:
“Shame Is Just a Word” is available right here at Bandcamp: