Norwegian black metal act, Ragnarok have been hard at work, writing and recording for their eighth full-length album to date, "Psychopathology". That said guitarist Bolverk gives a run down on this release, the band playing acoustically and unicorns and rainbows!
1. Who are you, and what do you do in the band?
Bolverk: I am Bolverk and I'm the guitar player.
2. Why did you want to switch roles and go from being the drummer to being the vocalist?
Bolverk: Well, Jontho has really always been the frontman of Ragnarok, it's just that he's been stuck behind the drums. When we found ourselves looking for yet another singer, we decided that it was about time Jontho gave it a go. It’s been great having him out front and he does a great job being the singer and frontman. It’s however not like you go to bed being a drummer and wake up being a singer in the morning. He put a lot of work and effort into this. The vocals on the new album are totally crazy and the fit very well with the overall expression of Ragnarok.
3. Since switching roles, have you yet to make the mistake, as vocalist where you accidentally move your arms thinking that your drumming, while your singing?
Bolverk: I don’t think that’s been a problem, but I know he misses the drums sometimes. It’s hard to sacrifice an instrument you’ve played for over 20 years for another instrument.
4. Your songs lyrical themes revolve around Paganism, Vikings, Anti-Christianity, Satanism, etc. centered around the Black Metal genre, while you do sing and play this content. Would we ever see you guys singing something totally out of content for you, singing about rainbows, unicorns, fairy tales, except maintain that black metal style. That'd be funny, would you consider doing a song like this?
Never. There are many reasons for this and some of them are:
1. Rainbows, unicorns and fairy tales don’t mix well with the brutal music we play.
2. Rainbows, unicorns and fairy tales are not very interesting.
3. Rainbows, unicorns and fairy tales are a poor image of the world we live in today.
4. Ragnarok and Black Metal aren’t about being funny.
5. Would you ever consider performing your material in acoustic format, but do it acoustic in this format, having the instrumentals be acoustic, but the vocal chords be the regular screaming, growling, kind, what do you think? That'd be funny as well.
Bolverk: No. We are too fast and brutal for that to work. We leave that to Eric Clapton.
Bolverk: Never. We leave the jokes to the comedians.
7. IF you were to do either version of a acoustic set, and were to take it on the road, do you think your fans would still attend your show, moshing and headbanging to the acoustic works?
Bolverk: We would hate it. They would hate it. No-one would come…especially not us.
8. You guys have yet to release any type of live recording, in the form of a live album or live DVD, perhaps doing that acoustic tour, would be a good idea, no?
Bolverk: We would be very interested in releasing a live album and a DVD would be very cool, but from an acoustic tour…NO!
9. Speaking of live performances, when it comes down to your attire and make-up, how long does it take each of you to get ready for a show? Why do you think going all out like you do, was the right thing to do with Ragnarok?
Bolverk: We are pretty experienced in putting on the make-up by now, so we do it pretty fast. It differs a bit from member to member. I’m probably the fastest and use about 5 minutes. I probably have the simplest make-up also. I think the make-up fits the music very well. It’s all about bringing forth your inner demons.
10. Where do you buy the clothes that you wear when performing, was it already designed like that or do you craft it into the creation you want it to be? Does the attire come already covered in blood?
Bolverk: We don’t really wear costumes, you know, so the clothes usually come from regular stores. The blood is added later…usually real pig blood from real pigs.
11. Did you guys do any type of celebrating in regards to you being a band for 20 years? Or does reminiscing about yourselves not your thing?
We had some plans about the 20th anniversary, but they didn’t work out, so now we’ve started planning for the 25th anniversary instead. If everything goes according to plan, it will be a cool celebration.
12. Why did you want your band to be a trio, as opposed to a full fledged band? Does it ever feel lonely just the three of you?
Bolverk: No it doesn’t feel lonely at all, because we are finally three people that are totally committed to all sides of what’s required to be in Ragnarok. We use a session bass player at the moment, but in the future we may have a bass player as a band member. Time will tell.
13. Let's talk a little about your latest release, what are the listeners in store for with this release?
Bolverk: The reviews and the feedback from the fans have been great. We are very grateful that most of the reviewers and fans respect that the band has had some sort of evolution through its more than 20 year old historiy (anything else would be very boring, I think). This proves that we manage to honour the roots of the band even if many years, many members and many trends have passed. Being a fan and not joining the band until 2009, it’s very important for me to pay homage to that heritage. Another thing is that I think all the songs from the album has been mentioned as someone’s favourite song. This tells me that the album is all over good, not only two or three good songs with the rest being fillers. When we make a new album, we’re obviously convinced that it’s a killer album, we wouldn’t release anything less, but still it’s great when other people like it too.
The title of the album is “Psychopathology”. The academic definition of “Psychopathology” is: “the study of psychological and behavioural dysfunction occurring in mental disorder or in social disorganization,” but we have taken the term a bit further (as usual) and are pointing the finger at how one can dissect someone’s mind. Two of the lines from the title track are: “I’m inside your mind. I dissect your soul”. It’s inspired by several things, but one of the strongest influences is definitely when Hannibal in the TV-series buries some people, keeps them alive intravenously and grows mushrooms on them. He is a psychiatrist, but way crazier than his patients. Another line from the song is: “The cure is worse than the disease.” And sometimes it’s like that, you know. Sacrifices are made in the name of science. It’s actually not many years ago since people were lobotomized and sterilised in Norway, just because they didn’t fit into the norm.
Anyway, a lot of the lyrics deal with some kind of madness in one way or another. In short; “Dominance and Submission” is about sado-masochism. “Where Dreams Go to Die” is about madness, about the twilight zone between dream and reality and the fear of not knowing if you’re dreaming or awake. “Lies” and “I Hate” are pretty self-explanatory. “The Eighth of the Seven Plagues” is about religion being the worst plague of them all. “Blood” is about personal sacrifice. “Heretic” is also about religion, emphasizing that some of the most central religious figures might be the biggest heretics of all. “Into the Abyss” is about the path that most of us have chosen. “My Creator” is the lyric that Jontho contributed and it’s very personal to him. “Infernal Majesty” is simply a tribute to our master.
I like to write about stuff that intrigues me some way or another, so sometimes “new” lyrical themes will turn up, but I’m still fascinated by the classical Black Metal themes. Just listen to “Into the Abyss” and “Infernal Majesty,” and we’re right back there in the early nineties.
14. What's it like to be upon your eighth full-length album? Do you think your band was going to make it to this point in time, let alone your musical careers?
Bolverk: I haven’t really thought about it, I’ve just kept playing because I enjoy it and I’ve done so since the early eighties. I’ve played in many bands and I didn’t’’t join Ragnarok until 2009, so I feel we have many years left with Ragnarok and a lot of music that’s still to be made…
15. What are your current plans, in general and in regards to shows and touring, if anything?
Bolverk: There’s going to be a lot of activity in the Ragnarok-camp 2016. We play several great festivals, for instance Steelfest and With Full Force among others, we tour South America for over a month in the summer and we do a European tour in October.
16. Do you have any last comments for our readers?
Bolverk: Thanks for supporting the scene…for going to shows, buying albums, making friends with us and keeping the spirit alive.