The Sacred Sounds Of Griftegard – Interview With Ola Blomkvist   Leave a comment

“Griftegård” is an old Swedish word for “cemetery” or “burial ground” but it also the name of this great band from Sweden. With three very good releases to their name including the incredible “Solemn, Sacred, Severe” full length released in 2009 and a split with Count Raven, this band have a slighty different approach from the “norm” in doom-metal. Our Russian doom guru Aleks caught up with Ola Blomkvist who is the guitarist and main lyric composer in the band.

Q: Good day Ola! How are you? Do you have any news from Griftegard?

-Hi Aleks, I’m OK, thank you. Griftegård related news would be that the split 7” vinyl we made with our brothers in Lord Vicar ought to be out any day now as Ván has just received the test pressings. The 7” features a brand new song called A Deathbed For All Holy and is, by our standards, a rather upbeat track, although still heavy, of course. As for other news, well, to be honest they are scarce right now, not much is planned; no gig’s (except for one in Domsjö in Norway on the 1st of October) and no recordings to take place any time soon. Right now we are in the fermenting stage where new songs are made, new lyrics realized.

Q: You and Per created Griftegard 5 years ago knowing well that you want to play – a pure doom metal as you did in your previous band The Doomsday Cult, you became the author of the songs lyrics as you played only guitar in TDC. But did you have total an realization of the band’s conception?

-It is true that both TDC and Griftegård can be viewed as acts of traditional, pure Doom; however they differ a lot in between in terms of lyrical, and musical, approach. TDC, although Doom Metal through and through, was less rigid in its musical form than Griftegård is. Also TDC lacked the spiritual aspect that we are cultivating in Griftegård and that has been present since the bands inception. In Griftegård we are very strict regarding what suits the concept and what doesn’t, the idea is very clear, always has been. When we started out in 2005 we knew exactly what path we were treading and we will never stray from it – Solemn, Sacred and Severe Doom Metal is forever.

Q: Was the Doom Shall Rise festival of 2007 your first appearance before the public? It was the day when you begun to spread your great demo-album “Psalmbook”, do you remember that day and the gig?

-It was actually in 2009 we played DSR. However mentioning 2007 is relevant as this was the year we began spreading the Psalmbok demo, and DSR was the event during which it was first distributed (by me and Per). We certainly remember our gig at DSR as it was the most important one for us that far in our career – to play DSR is a great honor and we are very thankful towards Frank and Jochen for bringing us to The Chapel in Göppingen. The atmosphere of DSR is more like the one present at a family gathering (minus the anguish instilled by the obligatory annoying aunts whose names you have forgotten) than of a Metal Festival. In short DSR rules!

Q: There were two great songs included in “Psalmbook” – “Charles Taze Russel” and “Paul Gustave Doré” and we must talk about both of them. But first of all, Ola, the very music and voice of Thomas sounded more harsh those days and I really lost myself listening to “Charles Taze Russel” – why didn’t Thomas sing in that manner in other songs of ‘Solemn. Sacred. Severe’ album?

-I think it is, to some extent, a result of the leaner and slicker production that Thomas vocals comes off as less harsh on SSS rather than due to a conscious decision of his. Listening to SSS now, a year and a half after we recorded it, I am inclined to agree that it (the production) became a bit too soft and “well produced”. I still like it though, but rest assured our next album will be rougher sounding.

Q: I read your interview with comments of these songs but let me clear one thing… You said that “Charles Taze Russel” is about the paranoia and anxiety a Jehovah’s Witness experiences on a daily basis. But as I’ve read Russel never identified himself with Jehovah’s Witness and he was no founder of that sect. But well is that cult enough popular in Sweden? Sometimes I see them in streets of our city, they look both funny and insane.

-Russell was perhaps not THE founder of the JW’s sect, however indirectly he helped spawning it by founding the “Bible Student movement,[1][2] from which Jehovah’s Witnesses and numerous independent Bible Student groups emerged after his death”, to quote Wikipedia.
The sect has never been particularly big in Sweden, although everyone knows about the JW’s and their activities. Also, for the trained eye they are very easy to spot in a crowd…not that they look insane (at least not here in Sweden) or anything but because they have THE new born x-tian look that is impossible to mistake for anything else – clothes being not trendy, nor directly out of fashion (only…beige, or mellow in a way…), the briefcase containing the Watchtower pamphlet, the way they move and the look in their eyes…

Q: Does the public sing with Thomas chorus of “Charles Taze Russel” during gigs? 🙂

-Yes, and actually not only during this chorus but increasingly so through all of our songs. A strange, but gratifying experience…

Griftegard “Charles Taze Russel”

Watch The Video @ YouTube Here

Q: There’s are great lyrics in this song – of course we can interpret it as we wish, don’t you think that such verses and images of that “religious hallucinations”… I’ve read one cool book about sects – it was written by some Christian priest – and he called visions which yogi sees during meditation as “occult hallucination”… Well, don’t you think that such verses and images of that “religious hallucinations” are normal for any Christian belief? Orthodox, Catholic and others have similar vision of such questions and maybe they are right… If you do not see “the other side” it doesn’t mean that there’s no such thing…

-Glad to hear you enjoy the lyric for Charles Taze Rusell, Aleks.

Regarding the supposedly imaginary phenomenon of “occult hallucination” in connection to the visions bestowed upon meditating yogi’s/priests/whatever: I believe it is quite self righteous by anyone to belittle other people’s mystical experiences by branding them as mere hallucinations. The inside world is just as real as the outside world, that is my experience.

Q: Ola, please comment the second song of “Psalmbook” – “Paul Gustave Doré”, you told me that it deals with the world view of someone severely depressed. Why do you have such vision of Dore’s art? He was a great painter and his work is awesome indeed.

-The intention I had for using his name as a title for a song was not (mainly) because I find it synonymous with depression due to the nature of his art, but to play upon the fact that most of his production consist of etchings that are monochromatic (just like the life spectrum as experienced by one depressed might seem limited). Doré is my fave artist of all time and the song is a celebration of his genius, and a take on depression, paradoxical (to some) perhaps, but hey, it doesn’t hurt being able to keep two things in mind at the same time.

Q: First full-length album of Griftegard “Solemn Sacred Severe” (2009) has few different amazing editions – which one do you have for yourself? And how did you decide to do such delicious editions?

-It is all thanks’ to our fantastic labels Ván and Nachtgnosis that there are such beautiful editions of the album out. Both understand the value of a good, representative presentation of the music and both went out of their way to realize this insight. Mortuus/Arioch, of Marduk/Funeral Mist-fame made the layout for the digipak and A5 versions of the CD while Vigridr of Nachtgnosis/Nihil Nocturne conceived the LP editions. Of course we had a communication regarding the artwork going and we gave it our final approval but the visions were in the minds of Mortuus and Vigridr. The amazing cover art is done by Andrzej Masianis and is called The Chamber.

Q: You recorded and mixed “Solemn Sacred Severe” at Milk Studios, Norrköping but many of the musicians record their albums in their home studios, how do you think – could you reach such results recording songs of this album in your home cellar?

-No, the acoustics in general, and those of the drums in particular, are probably impossible to achieve at home, unless you have a cellar as big as a barn and very good microphones – the Milk studio recording room is very spacious and the acoustics are professionally calculated.

Q: How long did you record the album and how intensive was your work in studio?

-We recorded and mixed the album, mainly during weekends, between the middle of March till the middle of July -09. When we were in the studio there was no fooling around, only disciplined work – personally I’m not that fond of the recording process and I find no reason to dwell in the studio any longer than necessary.

Q: Sorry, if it is some kind of stereotype but can you remember your favorite story from Bible? And by the way what does the book mean to you?

-The book of Job is probably my favorite, Genesis is another, and of course The Book of revelation. I think there’s enough beauty in the language of the books alone to motivate even the most secular of readers to pick them up. The book of Job is a great study in what it means to be human and people who cannot identify with Job and at least some of the situations he faces has probably never really lived or they have chosen to live in denial.

Q: Speaking about “main disappointment” of believers we have to pick up a topic of “God’s absence” in lives of humankind, I’m meaning that most of those who imagine themselves as Christians for example often think that to burn candles or to read Bible is enough… The question is about narrow view of this problem – of the searching for God which each of us do in that or another way.

-I believe there are many different ways to experience divinity in life but that I am not in the position of telling anyone which way is right for him/her. What I can say though is that I believe outer acts of worship, such as candle lighting rituals and other things done to pay respect to traditions are very separate from real soul searching. Once again, the inner, subjective reality can be, and is, as real as objective, outside reality.

Q: Don’t you think that doom with Christian lyrics must be really slow, heavy and disturbing? I do not want to give any label (besides “doom”) to Griftegard but such terms as “pain”, “suffering”, “struggle” and “salvation” go hand to hand. And “it doesn’t hurt – it doesn’t count” as it’s said.

-There is an old Swedish 18th century Psalm called “Ju större kors, ju bättre Kristen”, meaning ”The bigger the cross, the better the Christian”, and there is something to that grand title for sure. There’s much truth to be extracted from the process of alchemy that is our Via Dolorosa walk of life, but what remains to be seen (by whom?, one might wonder…) is whether or not one has suffered in vain in the end – life comes without guarantees of happy endings…thus it might be best to just live in the now…but who am I to say? The only thing I know is that when real insight light up your inside it does not ever fade, and I guess that is the only thing one can strive for…and without hardships one can never hope to reach any true insights at all. Small bits of truth might just lead to revelations…

I am glad that you do no not try to label us as anything else than Doom, cause that is what we are, a Doom Metal band mirroring doubt, paradoxes, insights, failures, filth, purity, death, life and inevitable Doom. Dealing with existential matters and having the musical preferences we have it is inevitable that we sound like we do.

Q: You identified yourself with Biblical Job, so is patience your virtue? Which virtues would you like to own?

-Patience certainly has become a virtue of mine, as well as the sense of duty. If self love would be a virtue (in my book) this would be my choice – it could solve many things for me, I believe, though sadly I doubt I will ever achieve it.

Q: Ola, you were working on three new songs with titles “A Beam InThe Eye Of The Lord”, “A Deathbed For All Holy” and “The Last Song Of The End” (A Final Time). Have you already done them?

-“A Deathbed For All Holy” is, as I mentioned before, the song that is featured on the Lord Vicar split. The other two are next in line to be realized.

Q: Ola, you also sung in the black metal band Spetälsk, are you still with them? I’ve read that you could picture yourself doing something in a vein of Sol Invictus – and I could imagine it well too, but I never could think that you sing in black-metal band!

-I have yet to sing on any Spetälsk recording; however I am currently developing lyrics for their next album. I am not really a full member of the band as I have nothing to do with the musical direction, I do the lyrics and the layout. I am a great admirer of certain BM acts and I believe that Griftegård, in some paradoxical and twisted ways, have more in common with Funeral Mist and Deathspell Omega than with the majority of other Doom acts.
Whether or not to brand Spetälsk a Black metal band I leave for others to debate.

Q: Which songs of Sol Invictus do you like better?

-“Our Lady Of The Wild Flowers” from “The Death Of The West” album is probably my favorite, closely followed by “English Garden” out of the “In The Rain” record. I am a great admirer of all of Tony Wakeford’s work, but also C93, DIJ and of course Comus are bands I hold in very high regard.

Q: You took part in the Dublin Doom Day on the 18th of September – how it was and which countries have you already visited with Griftegard?

-Dublin was fantastic, the most openly supportive audience we have ever played to – people sang along to the songs and really showed their appreciation. We’d love to come to Ireland again soon. Up till now we have played in Holland, Sweden (needless to say), Denmark, Ireland, Switzerland and Germany.

Q: Okay, that’s all for this time. Thank you for your patience and answers – I was very glad to have a chance to do that interview because Griftegard was a really amazing doom-discovery for me! I wish you and other mates of Griftegard all the best.

-Thank YOU for your patience with my delayed answers Aleks, I’m thankful you didn’t give up on me. We would love to come to Russia some day so I urge anyone who feels like setting up a show to get in touch.

May this Brave New World go down in flames and may a new pure one arise!
Interview By Aleks Evdokimov

Griftegard @ Myspace

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Posted January 2, 2011 by doommantia in Griftegård

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