Cronian – Gods of Their World(s)Friday, 6th December 2013
Rare when a partnership is so fruitful that is spins off a band similar, or at least in the same area code as its main band. By rule, side projects are deemed as a receptacle for ideas not for use in one’s main-earner, or just as means to get some songs out of the ‘ole system. Yet the Borknagar pair of Øystein G. Brun (guitars) and Andreas “Vintersorg” Hedlund aren’t just your average extreme metal duo. They’re existential, thought-provoking, and ultimately, productive, which is why there’s a need for their Cronian offshoot.
In close musical company since 2000, Brun and Hedlund activated Cronian in 2005, releasing Terra, and then the superior Enterprise in 2008. However, their new Erathems takes the Cronian cake, serving up mountainous slabs of challenging, cerebral, modified black metal, dominated by Brun’s ever shape-shifting riffs and of course, the exceptional vocals of Hedlund. With that in mind, we grabbed Brun for a round of questions that teetered between the two worlds of Cronian, and of course, Borknagar. Read on…
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve taken a pretty casual approach to Cronian. Has it become a fun and/or safe haven band for you?
Øystein G. Brun: Casual or not, that is not really a relevant question for us. We simply did the album we wanted to do at this point in time. Personally, I regard this album as one of the most musically successful albums I have participated in, simple because we ended up very close to the actual goals we set forth for this album. For the first time, we managed to achieve a production that treats and project the material properly. Musically speaking, and from my point of view, the material on the new album doesn’t really differ that much from the previous albums in terms of being experimental or unconventional, but this time we managed to gather the loose ends to make a better and more dynamic expression. Cronian is definitely a fun and inspiring haven but by no means a safe haven. Not at all.
Dead Rhetoric: Furthermore, Bork’s lineup is pretty stable; does that make the creative process easier for not only Bork, but Cronian as well?
Brun: Hmm….haven‘t really thought about it in this way. But of course, stability (but not necessarily harmony) in general makes it easier to focus more on the creative aspects of being a musician, making music and being in a band. Band stability is always a good thing for creativity – as long as you don’t roll over and become comfortably numb. [laughs] But on the other hand, frankly, we haven’t really been so busy with Borknagar the last couple of years so doing other music, projects or bands is not a big issue. Both Andreas and I always write music of some sort, some we use, some not. At least for me, writing music is an integrated part of my daily life. I don’t need to go to a desert island and disconnect from everything for month’s in order to find inspiration or write music.
Dead Rhetoric: With Borknagar being so busy of late, where did you find the time to put together some new songs? Have you been stockpiling them the last few years?
Brun: No, actually we started to play around with some new songs in early 2012, shortly after we finished the Urd album with Borknagar. The whole recording session for Urd was an amazing and inspiring session. We learned a lot. We did everything ourselves in our respective studios except for the mixing and mastering. So we had some sort of revelation in terms of our production skills. So we wrote, recorded and mixed a few songs to check if the Cronian spark was still there. And indeed it was. So we are talking fresh meat here…J
Dead Rhetoric: Do you ever worry about having too many similarities between the two bands? Or, do you pay careful attention to making sure ideas for Bork get used for Bork, and vice-versa?
Brun: No and no. The fact that there is and obviously will be some similarities between Cronian and Borknagar is something we accept and don’t try to hide away from. In my point of view that is not because we write similar music but because we share much the same ideals in terms of production. The music for Cronian is written in a completely different way than with Borknagar. With Cronian we start out with more focus on huge soundscapes and then we peal it down structures and songs. With Borknagar it is almost the opposite way of working, the more traditional way with arrangements spinning around traditional riffs. So for me as a composer it is not even (practically) possible to mess up riffs and ideas. So this doesn’t worry me at all.
Dead Rhetoric: Of all the singers you’ve worked with, has Mr. V proven to be the most compatible for you?
Brun: Strictly as a vocalist, I don’t really know to be honest. Working with different vocalists always represents slightly different approach, cooperation and challenges. In that respect, I adore all the vocalists I have been working with through the years. But indeed, Andreas is one of my very best friends. We share much of the same interests also as private persons and Cronian is more or less a result of our friendship. We are the two weirdoes that are sitting in the corner of the party discussing matters that nobody else finds interesting. Actually I would argue that Cronian is a result of “musical language” between us that have evolved through the years. A language nobody else understands.
Dead Rhetoric: Your partnership was forged over 13 years ago. What do you remember most about your first encounter?
Brun: Being completely drunk! I have never been that drunk before or after…ha-ha.
Dead Rhetoric: Is there more collaboration in Cronian than Bork?
Brun: Due to mathematical reasons, probably yes! Obviously since the two of us do everything in Cronian that means that our cooperation is quite massive at times under the Cronian banner. But qualitatively speaking, our cooperation maintains much the same wherever our focus currently is.
Dead Rhetoric: The atmospheric element of the new album seems to have been expanded since Enterprise. Was it the goal from the beginning to be a little more progressive this time out?
Brun: Yeah, we always want to take a step further and challenge ourselves musically. In the original versions of the songs we played some really high cards on some themes. Due to the production, it works really nice now, but at some points I was pretty sure the world of metal would hate us for doing this and that. And that is the magic with making music. Ideas might pop up and it seems to be way too far out- but after some tweaks it turns out to be very diamond of the song. Also, my experience with writing music is that the most bleak and dull song in pre-production versions almost always turns out to be the best song of the album. I love that kind of musical tension. Therefore I never throw away a song, because then you probably throw away one of the eventually best songs.
Dead Rhetoric: Lyrically, the scope is much different than Borknagar’s, as in, there’s more reflection on the world’s state of affairs. Does it take much to get inspired with all that’s happening to our planet nowadays?
Brun: Indeed! I usually say that Borknagar more resembles the lonely philosopher sitting on a stone in Nature pondering, whilst Cronian is more like the activist doing something. Both Bork and Cronian derives from a nature perspective, but with Cronian this time around we wanted to stand forth with a clearer message. We don’t want to go “Greepeace” on the theme, but being very fond of the nature (hence our previous releases) we wanted to take a step outside the forest and in our way advocate the well-being of Mother Earth. So Erathems is our way of shouting out loud; “Folks, we are ruining the very planet we are living on.” Maybe slightly pathetic, even cheesy within the metal community – but I don’t care – that is what we want to say with this album. In our tongue.
Dead Rhetoric: Are you a news buff? Or do you prefer to leave the television turned off for some solitude?
Brun: I am fairly updated on what is happening, I never go to sleep without watching the news bulletin on the telly. In my world, engagement and involvement is crucial. As an example, I was on the front page of the local newspapers many times during this summer due to my engagement in getting the church out of the Norwegian schools. So I had some hard hitting (I hope) official debates with local priests and even the bishop of Bergen. All this culminated in a national debate which is still running. Which is cool and highly needed…;-)
Dead Rhetoric: Finally, what’s on the agenda for the rest of 2013, going into 2014?
Brun: Just now doing some interviews for the new Cronian album- obviously. Then I guess we’ll start to play around with some new songs and head for a new album. Apart from that, I will be also busy with the new Borknagar album as well as we going to do some festivals next year, maybe even a tour. So it is all about keeping the wheels spinning. Sleep and relaxation can be done later!