King of Asgard – From Here, To NorthSunday, 31st March 2013
(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)
”We create out of devotion.” That’s something you don’t here every day and even if it was uttered, a furrowed brow would probably be raised. The above quote can be attributed to King of Asgard drummer Karsten Larsson when discussing the near-unanimous positive feedback for their 2010 debut Fi’mbulvintr. For a band that is slotted unfairly in the folk metal rat race, KOA’s unrelenting, yet no less triumphant brand of epic death metal has struck paydirt once again on this year’s fresh …to North. It takes brutality in this realm to another level, as evidenced by searing cuts such as “The Nine Worlds Burn” and “Plague-Ridden Rebirth.” It’s the type of album that should give the Swedes ample room in which to operate down the road, plus, did we mention how brutal the thing is? Here’s our exchange with Larsson…
Blistering.com: You had quite the run of success with Fi’mbulvntr, so were there worries at all about hitting the sophomore slump with …to North?
Karsten Larsson: Yeah, Fi’mbulvintr was for sure well received which of course was a very appreciated welcome for being our debut. So when we further on started working on the songs for …to North we just rode that wave and let creativity flow. We never had any worries really as we never thought of it as a success or similar, we just kept on and still do. Of course there was some small ‘goals’ set of what we wanted to accomplish, but that is rather for keeping up. This is what we do and we’re obviously not the innovative kind. That is not the intention with King of Asgard. We’re not really breaking any boundaries; we rather protect and serve the ways of old. Clearly, judging of the response on the debut as well as the few we’ve seen on the new one, this is something that is appreciated not only by us, but by our fans and followers as well. As long as we’re satisfied and feel we’re doing something out of satisfaction and worth, I guess we won’t have any major worries as this is not made for success, we create out of devotion.
Blistering.com: Which album was harder to make: the debut or the new album?
Larsson: This is two different stories actually. Fi’mbulvintr was pretty much finished when we signed to Metal Blade so there was basically just a couple of songs, arrangements and finishing touches left and thus we didn’t have the time to go deeper into it but rather get the songs recorded. While as getting started with …to North it was full focus from first second. It was a natural and a new way of working for King of Asgard with complete line-up and focus. We kind of build songs on a solid ground and work from there with putting melodies, or what it takes, upon it. Building it brick-by-brick to get to the sensation we’re looking for and to erect and hopefully reach the peak. This takes more care in songwriting and demands more out of us and a careful structure. We record our stuff all the time throughout writing and listen to it a lot during the process so when we finally enter the studio, there shouldn’t occur any surprises, really. It is basically done and the result comes as a reward of countless hours of hard work in advance. Andy at Sonic Train studios also helps out if there is something we feel is missing so that’s why we still choose to work with him. So I shouldn’t say we changed, we more or less just started.
Blistering.com: Being that some of the members already had success with Mithotyn, is it safe to say that the second time around is even better?
Larsson: That’s a totally different story if talking in terms of success. The thing with Mithotyn was really that people showed their appreciation first when the band was about to disband, which of course was a pity. The struggle Mithotyn had with the label Invasion Records was also a least, say weary story that made the bands existence far from good. The success came as Mithotyn reached the dead end which was really unpleasant actually. So make sure to support your bands and interests while they’re active and the opportunity still is present.
Now with King of Asgard, it’s really the other way around, which is great. We’re getting immediate support from label, fans and followers which is a cool thing indeed. It’s a privilege to get a reception like the one we have received both for the debut and now for …to North. We’re very grateful and glad for this of course and it shows there are people longing for this kind of music still. Guess back when Mithotyn was active, the internet and such was not very common and made realizing success etc. harder while as now you’ll get feedback in the very next second of releasing a single, album or whatever. It is, very, safe to say. This time IS better!
Blistering.com: How quickly did it take for the material to come together once Lars [Tängmark , guitars] joined?
Larsson: Lars started playing with us just as Fi’mbulvintr was released so he’s been with us throughout the whole process of creating …to North. Naturally it takes time to fully get in, but it’s really been good having him and it makes things a lot more easy thinking of creating and trying out new ideas in the rehearsal. Still, the material takes about the same time to create as we’re more accurate and precise while working in this current situation.
Blistering.com: Describe to me how beneficial it is having a second guitarist at your disposal…the sound is so much fuller now.
Larsson: It really is and it facilitates the creative process whereas we reach such goals. Getting the sound fuller was the whole thing with King of Asgard getting another guitarist. Of course, being able to perform the songs in their entirety, especially live, and be able to add loops and the like and still have left a guitar at the bottom. So it feels absolutely great. At the same time it helps considerably when writing songs and trying out new ideas when you can benefit from the possibility of having two guitars to work with.
Blistering.com: I’m sure you’re getting this a lot, but the new album at various points, is simply brutal. Was that intentional?
Larsson: Well it’s more a result of this being the first album we’ve all been involved in the making of. It all came natural. This time around I’ve been way more involved, along with Karl, which could be another obvious reason as well as I have a history of a more extreme musical background which I still cherish high and want to bring as part of this. We all have been playing in numerous bands during the last 20 years or so and this being mainly in the vein of black and death metal, so it’s something that is deeply rooted within us and it’s also very present in the immediate sound for KoA as well. Creating this aggressive/epic approach or simply brutal one as you put it, comes natural out of dedication, devotion and heart. We see King of Asgard as something that depicts and describes our concept and old heritage, Viking age and so forth, which hardly was much that could be described as fun. Thus we skip the happy approach as we’re not a band existing on expressions of bliss. This is what we personally like and seem many with us.
Blistering.com: There’s some absolutely killer riffs to be found on “The Nine Worlds Burn,” “Gap of Ginnungs” and “Plague-Ridden Rebirth.” Who’s responsible for all of the great riff-action here?
Larsson: Probably most of them are written by Karl [Beckmann, guitars/vocals], our riff machine. The base of a song is mainly done by Karl and me and it’s taken care of during a long time at the rehearsal and at home and so forth. So the basic ideas comes from Karl, which we build upon until everybody is satisfied. All of us come up with opinions and ideas which we try out until perfection is reached – according to us that is. An example for this is “The Nine Worlds Burn” which was the first song we wrote for the …to Northalbum and actually was the last one that got completed. It got a completely new verse and structure just weeks before entering the studio and it sure came out a killer in the end.
Blistering.com: You must be itching to play some of these songs live. Which songs do you think will work best?
Larsson: Yeah for sure! We actually tried them all in front of a live audience two weeks ago. We had a release party for …to North here in Mjölby (27/7) where we performed the entire album in exact track listing as on the actual record. Unfortunately far from all had heard all the songs but one really felt which ones worked better on the crowd, as for us. First out of the ones that probably will work is “The Nine Worlds Burn,” a great live song that set margin. This time around we also had live guest appearance by Heléne Blad (album guest singer) which was amazing! Other songs we felt worked out fine was “Nordvegr,” ”Gap of Ginnungs” and “The Dispossesse.” So, we’ll see which ones we’ll pick up next time. But one thing that struck us was that all songs actually worked out fine and it was indeed an interesting experience to present the album in its whole.
Blistering.com: If anything, the new album leaves a lot of the folk/epic metal connotations you had in the dust. Do you think you’ll gradually move away from that style?
Larsson: Could be that some of it is out of picture. I still think it’s present though but in a more discreet way and not as obvious as on the predecessor. It just came out this way and was nothing we planned. We’ll not deliberately turn our backs on the folk/epic parts. It’s still going to be a big part of King of Asgard and its sound and we have already some interesting ideas which actually is purely based on folk tunes that will be presented in a KoA manner. We’ll see what will come out of that. More than that, well, we don’t plan on these things to happen. This is where King of Asgard takes us and we’ll see where to go next, still we’re careful to stick to our roots.
Blistering.com: Conceptually, what was the focus this time? And what does the title …to North represent?
Larsson: Our main source and focus of lyrical inspiration was yet again based upon Norse mythology, legends and sagas. There’s no concept behind the …to North album as far as it goes throughout the whole album though. There are main themes that is Norse mythology based, prehistoric tales/reflections of/and believes, but no more than that actually. The title …to North kind of reflect upon that, our Norse heritage. It has ambiguous ways of being seen upon and is vague in its description and left open for interpretation. A tribute to the North, our heritage and (longing for) home. We felt it fit right away as we came up with it.
Blistering.com: A few years ago, there were tons of bands playing the epic/folk metal style. Now it appears the scene had died down a bit, therefore, do you think this will benefit King of Asgard?
Larsson: Have no idea to be honest. Never been that involved in the actual epic/folk metal scene or style but of course I’ve noticed its ups and downs. But I guess it’s like it usually is with all these subgenres when they get overcrowded. With bands and records popping up like mushrooms, without specific quality, target or spot. Be it death metal, black metal or whatever, it happened to them all. One get fed up and it’s suicide decease. If this will benefit us? Don’t know but hopefully we’ll be more accessible if so. Let’s just hope we’ll stand that test ourselves and that our followers will be on our side. Time will tell!
Blistering.com: Finally, what’s on the agenda for the rest of 2012?
Larsson: Thanks a bunch, David, Blistering.com, its readers and the followers of the King for supporting King of Asgard! Well, 2012… hope for some shows ahead, meet our followers and that the album gets the attention we believe it deserves.