Where Shadows Reign: An Interview with Dark Funeral

Dark Funeral occupy a legendary place in black metal, having come into the scene back in 1993. Back then Scandinavia was a hotbed for this new genre, with the likes of Burzum, Marduk, Mayhem, Darkthrone and many others popping out of Norway and Sweden. Drunk in the emotions of their youth, they were probably unaware of the significance of the movement that they were all starting; it was more than simply the often cacophonous sounds and guttural shrieks. It was about the explosion of a disenfranchised youth that did not feel represented by their authorities and their inherited faith.

Coinciding with the release of Where Shadows Forever Reignthe long-awaited new Dark Funeral album, the first since 2009’s Angelus Exuro Pro Eternus, we met with Heljarmadr, the band’s new vocalist, to discuss the band, the new album and, of course, black metal.

Every soul that you take away from the fucking church is good

MB: Although you joined the band in 2014, this will be the first Dark Funeral release featuring you on vocals. Tell me a bit about the process through which you ended up fronting one of the most important black metal bands in  history
Heljarmadr: They had their 20th anniversary show in Stockholm, and my other band, Gra, were handpicked to be their support for the evening. That’s how I got in contact with them. Caligula was leaving, and they needed a new guy. I thought about it and, well, I’m pretty good, so I thought about seeing what they thought about me joining them [laughs] It wasn’t an easy decision to make, to actually go serious about it and give 100% to the music; I thought about it for a long time, weighing the pros and cons, until I eventually contacted Lord Ahriman and told him I was available, in case he wanted to try it out. It was a good match.

MB: And how do you think Gra was affected by your move?
H:
I don’t think it affects it a lot, at least not negatively. We are not very active with Gra, so I think that it’s just a positive thing. I finished Ending with them last year, while working with Dark Funeral, without any issues. The only problem is if we double book a gig or something, in which case, for me, Dark Funeral will have to go first.

Dark Funeral (Photo: Konstantin Smirnov)
Dark Funeral (Photo: Konstantin Smirnov)

MB: It’s been 7 years since the last Dark Funeral release, something that made many think the band was over or that, at least, they’d simply go the way of Bolt Thrower and stop recording new music. What happened during this time?
H: Mostly vocalist issues but, honestly, I don’t know that much since I’ve only been with the band for the last two years. Since the day I joined we’ve basically been working actively on the new album. Maybe I was a good motivation [laughs]

MB: You’re responsible for writing quite a few of the lyrics for this album. Could you tell me about the concept behind them?
Well, in a band like this, with more than 20 years of history, you have a certain framework to work in. I didn’t want to fuck that up because I like Dark Funeral [laughs] so I wanted to keep sounding like Dark Funeral! Of course, I have my own way of writing lyrics and, well, they are different. It’s not a concept album though, each song stands individually. I’ve been working with concepts with Gra for 5 years already, so it was kind of deliberate to move away from that, and to merely have a framework within which to work.

MB: Speaking about lyrics: do you think that satanism, occultism, etc., are an essential part of black metal?
H: Yes, absolutely.

MB: So, if a band does not touch upon those topics, you feel they’re not truly black metal?
H: I don’t care what people call their music, that’s their business, not mine. I wouldn’t call it black metal if it doesn’t have the concepts of black metal; then it’s just an extreme metal band.

MB: There are two music videos out already for songs from this new album. Both of these videos feature a lot of “shock” elements, like blood, pentagrams, etc. Do you think the image is fundamental for a black like Dark Funeral?
H: Well, we weren’t really searching for “shock value,” it’s just how we naturally wanted the videos to look like. It wasn’t like we were intentionally trying to piss people off, because that would be just stupid. We just did what came to us.
I think that the visuals are important, of course, especially on stage. Dark Funeral is not just the music; it goes beyond that, it also has spiritual and visual elements. It’s the whole package.

MB: Despite starting as an underground, “shocking” genre, black metal has now become quite “normal.” Do you think that this dilutes the power of black metal, as if it can only really thrive in obscurity?
In a way, black metal is gaining power all the time. If you have more and more people listening to bands like Dark Funeral, then they won’t be listening to fucking gospel music [laughs]. If you can bring hundreds of new people into this, then it means they have abandoned all the other shit they were doing before. In this way I think that we are gaining power; we are going to big festivals and getting all the recognition from everywhere.
Black metal is growing not just as music… I don’t want to call it a “movement,” but let’s just say that every soul that you take away from the fucking church is good.

MB: So you don’t see the increase in popularity as a bad thing for black metal?
No; it means people have a better fucking taste! [laughs]