Einherjer – Headed NorthTuesday, 16th February 2021
In existence for close to 30 years now, Einherjer was one of the first names to really carry the torch for Viking metal, fusing black and folk together with traditional heavy metal influences to create something unique. Their eighth album, North Star (available for preorder HERE) continues the band’s intriguing take on things, and sees them continuing to polish the edges of their sound. We caught up to drummer/keyboardist Gerhard Storesund (aka Ulvar) to discuss their new album as well as the reissue of their debut Dragons in the North (both out February 26), as well as band accomplishments over the years, the Viking metal scene, and more.
Dead Rhetoric: What makes North Star feel special to you?
Gerhard Storesund: I think we just feel that we made a really solid album. We have sort of found the formula, so to speak, with the last album – really since our ‘reunion’ but especially with the last album since we recorded it all locally and did it all ourselves. I think the new album is a nice set of tunes in the same vein. That’s what we want to do – our overall goal is to make good songs that we are happy with, and I think we have achieved that. We don’t release anything until we are happy anyways [laughs]. It’s really convenient for us now with the studio being at our vocalist’s [Grimar] house so we can sort of come and go as we please. I don’t think I could travel to Sweden or whatever for three weeks. This way we can come in on the afternoons and weekends, and maybe take a few days off, but we have plenty of time.
Dead Rhetoric: It kind of relieves that pressure to get in and get it done.
Storesund: Exactly. Then you end up with solutions that happen just because you have to finish – there’s no money left. Now we can experiment and fiddle with it for as long as we please.
Dead Rhetoric: So do you feel having your own studio helps to ensure Einherjer sounds exactly to the band’s liking?
Storesund: Hopefully – the previous album was sort of a test project. It was the first time we recorded everything in that studio. It’s super expensive. The mix for Norron, for instance, was like $7,000 or whatever. So we wanted to see if we could make it a bit less expensive and still get a great result. I think we did it. We like to do everything ourselves. We have total control.
Dead Rhetoric: You started out with Napalm Records for Dragons in the North. How’d the decision come about to go back now?
Storesund: Basically, our previous contract was up so we could either renew it or look around and see if anyone else was interested. So we did that, and one of them was Napalm. Now we’ve gone full circle, and I think it’s kind of cool to be back there. It’s a lot bigger company than our previous label. They have a lot more impact, at least in Europe. I think it was a really good choice.
Dead Rhetoric: Do any of the songs stand out to you on North Star, on the musical or lyrical side of things?
Storesund: There are three songs that stand out to us, because we collectively chose them for video material. We have already released two videos, “Stars” and “The Blood and the Iron.” The album release is February 26, and shortly after that, we will release another video for “West Coast Groove.” It’s going to be an animated video. We have done a few of those before. It will be done by Costin Chioreanu. We felt that those three songs would be good – “Ascension” would also be good, but it’s too long for a video.
Dead Rhetoric: Dragons of the North is having its 25th anniversary and being rereleased this year too. What do you recall about the time surrounding that album?
Storesund: Not much [laughs], it’s like Ozzy Osbourne not remembering anything from the ‘70s. But yeah, it was in the black metal era of Norway in the early ‘90s but I think we went in a bit of a different path than other bands back then. It has always been more focused on heavy metal and influenced by the classic stuff. The recording, although the music of our band was completely different than bands like Immortal, we wanted to record in the same studio [Grieghallen Studio]. It was a classic studio for early black metal. So we recorded that and the mini-EP for Far Far North in that studio. I remember sleeping in a camper outside in the parking lot when we did it. No luxury at all.
Dead Rhetoric: What does Norse Heavy Metal mean to you?
Storesund: I think that maybe Viking metal term has been a bit diluted. Not in a bad way, but it’s extremely wide now. There are so many things now – everything is Viking metal nowadays…pagan metal, folk metal, all that stuff. I think that we just wanted to say how it was. We are basically a heavy metal band. Aside from the vocals, we are basically a heavy metal band. The themes are still mainly Norse history and mythology, but it has evolved into other stuff. It’s not as refined and narrow as we were before. We’ve expanded a bit into more personal stuff, like what it means to be human and things like that. I think it’s more fitting than just Viking metal for us now. We are still inspired by folk music in some sense, so I guess we are still a bit Norse.
Dead Rhetoric: What are you most proud of accomplishing with Einherjer over the years?
Storesund: A lot [laughs]. What stands out to me is that we put the band on ice back in 2003 or 2004 because we were fed up and wanted to do something else. We traveled around with a different band for a few years and started up again back in 2009. One of the first things we did was the main stage at Wacken. It was a big step up from club shows to doing the main stage there. That was kind of cool. It’s not like we do that every year but it was very cool to do that in front of 30,000 people or so. It was packed. That kind of stuff is cool, playing big festivals. Touring with King Diamond was cool too. We are super fans so it was extremely cool for us.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel that Viking metal, as a scene, has changed and progressed?
Storesund: That’s also very strange – maybe that’s why we suddenly played Wacken. When we came back from that break, the scene had exploded. It was huge! It wasn’t thanks to us [laughs], but we benefitted from it. I’m not going to step on any toes but at this point, not everything in the genre appeals to me anymore. There’s a lot of drinking songs – I want the best for all of those bands, but I don’t need to listen to all of them [laughs]. The scene has become really big, and we are still in the same scene, even if we label ourselves in a different way with Norse Heavy Metal. It doesn’t really matter what we call ourselves, but it’s more fitting I think.
Dead Rhetoric: Is there anything you picked up or learned as a result of COVID-19?
Storesund: Not really. We all have jobs, and I’ve been working the whole time since COVID started, so I didn’t really have any extra time. It’s been Netflix and gaming for me, because nobody visits and you don’t visit anybody else. It’s a relief that you don’t get any surprise visits. No one comes to knock on your door in the middle of the afternoon [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: What’s coming up in 2021 for the band?
Storesund: As I mentioned, we have a video after the release of the album. That’s really all that is certain. But we do have a release gig here in our home town the day of. Our vocalist is working at a venue – it’s a seated theater venue. It has some different rules, and you can have like 200 people. It isn’t much, but it is what it is. So we will have that gig unless something changes. We have this mutant virus creeping closer every day. So it looks like it will happen but we can’t always be sure. As for the rest of the year, we have a lot of plans – everything from 2020 was postponed to 2021 but I don’t know, I’m kind of a pessimist. I don’t think much is going to happen. I don’t think they are going to fill a field with 30,000 people in Germany in the summer. That sounds very optimistic to me. I hope it happens – we are all tired of this crap but we will see what happens. I will play if we can.