King Of Asgard are a melodic death metal band with folk elements, much like Amon Amarth, yet they’ve got ties in several different genres, as their latest album Karg explores. There are things on Karg that bands like Amon Amarth just wouldn’t do, like the use of clean vocal harmonies and full-on folk in some sections of the album. But Karg still remains particularly heavy and captures the old school spirit of black and death metal proficiently. I spoke with Jonas Albrektsson (Bass) as he talked a little about the darkness behind Karg as well as some of the great Norse myths, legends and histories that it is based upon. Also check out Jonas in his old school death metal act, Vanhelgd!
Tell me a little bit about the band. How did you all meet and what made you decide to play this style of music?
We’ve all known each other for many years and played together since the early nineties in all sorts of different constellations. So it’s no coincidence that we got together. Me and Karl have been close friends since childhood which goes back thirty-three years, so we’re very close to each other. King of Asgard started as a project by Karl and Karsten earlier in the band Mithotyn. They wanted to somewhat get back to their roots and take off where it all ended, though it has obviously taken a slightly different direction. Later on I joined the band and shortly after the debut was recorded, Lars came in. We all have a background in death and black metal with several bands that we’ve been active in, so our background is quite wide and the expression of King of Asgard is a sort of a mirror of our past. We’re not the innovative kind as you’ve probably noticed.
Let’s talk about your latest album, Karg. What does the album title mean and what does that represent here? What kind of album did you want to make this time around, as you’ve recorded two albums prior that some may not have heard.
Well, Karg – meaning “Barren” really set the atmosphere and influenced us in writing the album in a way that kept us and the musical approach stripped down. The outcome this time around is darker and there is less hope and joy to say it metaphorically. It is something that differs quite a lot from its predecessors. Imagine a dead landscape stricken by the harsh wings of history, barren and struck by difficulties, yet still standing proud. The old times were I guess difficult times, and that’s something that we tried to capture with the word “karg” as a guideline along the way. I guess we came close to it as it’s not as easy to get into this album as the predecessors but once there, the landscape takes shape.
How long did it take to write and record Karg and how long did that process take? Did you have any issues in the studio, or did everything turn out rather well?
I think we worked on the songwriting in full focus for about a year. The last song was finished just a few weeks before we entered Sonic Train Studios, but nothing’s set until it’s on the master. We constantly change things during the writing process going back and forth. Same goes for the recording, things that come up like background choir, guitars in different harmonies and stuff like that are carefully taken care of. There are parts written already back during the …To North sessions or even earlier that never fit in the songs for one reason or another. So there is older material, but I would say about ninety percent of it is written, arranged, and completed within that year. We felt a couple of weeks before the studio that we were finished and that pre-productions of all the songs were made and we felt safe in entering the next level, which was the finalization of Karg. It took about two weeks to record it and some additional days for mixing and mastering. The studio sessions went of pretty much as planned. Of course some minor issues turned up, but they were solved and we also had some technical issues that we had to face while mixing, but after all it went smooth and came back satisfied with the result.
Some might compare your music to the earlier style of Amon Amarth. But what else might you say helped to inspire your sound? What would you say are some of the albums you were listening to around the writing process?
We’re much influenced by the early nineties death and black metal scene I would say. Not any specific names maybe but the overall greatness and quality that bands carried back then. Though to mention something I guess I would probably say Dismember, Unleashed, Satyricon, Candlemass, Isengard, Storm and others have in one way or another been present and of course the obvious influence of Bathory. We also have on the more folk side of things, a huge inspiration from an artist called Jan Johansson, a Swedish jazz pianist. This is most obvious and evident on the intro for the song “Omma” which is written almost as a tribute to him, as it is reminiscent in melody, sound and performance.
Additionally, what do you think are some of the greatest albums of all time?
Oh, this is always tough! I’m personally more into black metal than the other members of the band, but here we go: Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Bathory’s The Return…, Dissection’s Storm of the Light’s Bane, Emperor’s In the Nightside Eclipse and so on. Also Morbid Angel, Death, Entombed, Satyricon, Darkthrone, Pestilence, Dismember and countless more!
Lyrically, tell me a little about the themes on this album. I’m guessing that “The Runes Of Hel” might refer to the Goddess Hel in Nifelheim, and that “The Trickster” would have to be based on Loki. Am I right or completely off?
“The Runes of Hel” is more a sort of visit to the region Hel, the realm of the dead and of course interpret the goddess as well. A brief scratch of the surface. “The Trickster” is no Loki story but we get what you mean. It is Lars’s lyrics and offers more of a fleeting story on enlightenment and its brief comforts, whether religious, spiritual or scientific. At the end of the day, fear is there and awaits you. This time around, the lyrics or themes on Karg are farther from each other than ever before, but still fit well under the King of Asgard banner. We’re dealing with Norse mythology as well as late history to pure legends and myths from the north and our immediate surroundings. These are the ancestral remnants that we pass by every day but don’t really consider and honor as our homestead and it’s rich historical ground.
How do you feel about the material here? Is it something more related to heritage or beliefs? How do those who believe in the Germanic Gods view the world in its current state? Is Ragnarok and the Fimbul winter upon us?
We’re not religious and consider these kinds of topics as more of a tribute to our ancestral heritage. The actual happenings and stories and beliefs that have come along such as The Poetic Edda and the like are something that we hold high. We explore and inspire the myths and legends of our part of the world, as well as the tales and beliefs of our region merely as observers and storytellers. Whether these are facts I’m not really sure, but it’s still an interesting view in many ways as in the state of the current world. So we’ll just have to wait and see if the winter of three ever will clash upon us.
What advice do you have for any who chose to study the runes and the ancient tales of old? What must one know before they seek the secret of the runes?
I don’t have any advice really, but just go for accurate information as there is much out there that isn’t. Search and seek with respect and beware of the powers, as it is told.
Let’s talk a little bit about touring. Do you think you’ll be able to tour the states this time? If so, who will you be touring with?
Unfortunately there are no tours or festivals planned at this moment. Right now we’re putting all of our focus on the release of the album with some interesting stuff, still to work on. Hope to see our US followers one day. We really would like to see that happen!
Out of the tours you’ve done, what could you say have been the best and worst moments on tour? Additionally, what do you guys do for fun while on the road?
We don’t have much experience at all on touring I’m afraid due to many reasons, some of them coincide with our efforts in daily life, work, kids etc. Anyway, our main live activities have thus been festivals and one-off shows. Often a lot of fun, great meeting our fans and hanging around. Off stage I guess, alcohol and conversation is occupying most of our time and the boring side to it is travel.
What are your hobbies outside of music? Are you in any other bands that we could check out?
There’s not much time left for other musical activities unfortunately. I work full time and have a kid and so forth. King of Asgard and all that follows with it is taking takes a lot of time, writing, rehearsing and all the “paperwork” such as this interview and contracts to be taken care of. Besides this I’m also in a death metal band called Vanhelgd, also on bass. It’s a primitive old school bastard of a band which I really enjoy as well. They were some close friends I joined for about a year ago. We recently released the album Relics of Sulphur Salvation, so check it out! I guess there is some other shit to it as well and the other guys are also in some other projects, but our main focus is King of Asgard and we try to put all our energy into it to make sure that the machine is running on full power.
Finally, I asked earlier about the music you were listening to at the time of the recording, but I’m curious as to what bands you’re listening to right now. Who’s on your playlist, or what records have you just bought? Additionally, are there any acts out there that you feel haven’t really gotten any exposure and need to be recognized?
The latest album I bought was Dead Congregation Promulgation Of The Fall. And what a fucking monster that is, really recommend it to anyone into that kind of music. Also the latest Behemoth runs frequently in the playlist. I also recently bought is Paradise Lost’s Tragic Idol, Vampire’s S/T, Helrunar/Arstidir Lifsins Split, Falconer’s Black Moon Rising, Ocean Chief’s Universums Härd, Teitanblood’s Death and Kriegsmaschine’s Enemy of Man and the list goes on. I really would recommend Arstidir Lifsins (Árstíðir lífsins), which is an Icelandic black metal band with strong traditional folk moments.
Thanks for answering my questions and for creating a powerful melodic death metal release. Best of luck to you guys in the future!
Thanks a lot!!! And thanks for supporting King of Asgard. All the best!
Get your hands on Karg here: http://www.metalblade.com/kingofasgard/