If you’re a fan of avant-garde metal, then Manimalism’s seven years in the making debut self-titled album is an absolute must. I spoke with mastermind Kim Solve as he discussed the early years of the project and explained that the album was “written by boys and finished by men.” He also shared with us some of his personal favorite records as well as some of his influences (which have nothing to do with Arcturus by the way.)
Tell us a little bit about the band. This debut has been several years in the making, which means that you’ve certainly got some diligence. Many people would have gotten frustrated after the first five, but it seems that you were very committed to getting these songs out.
I started Manimalism under the name Taarenes Vaar back in ‘92. During our first two years of existence we evolved from primal and mediocre Black Metal into something far more fulfilling, refining dissonance as a central part of our expression. The result was a darker, slower and less sentimental direction than many others took at the time. There was a very special atmosphere here in Oslo in the early to mid-nineties, and Manimalism is very much based on combining that atmosphere as well as our own personalities and obsessions, in a way that is removed from some of the clichés worshipped in the years since then. We released the cassette demo Y … Mea Maxima Culpa in ‘96 and Songs For Wicked People in ‘97, both as Taarenes Vaar. We were about to sign an album deal with Metalion’s Head Not Found, but it fell through. The material for the debut album was finished around ’98 or ‘99 and since then we have entered studios to record it several times. Frustration is no stranger to me, that’s for sure, but I made a promise to myself to keep going until this album was out and I keep my word. Once the recording had taken a certain number of years a few more years did not seem to matter that much. Without commitment, stamina and guts there is no point. I prefer a hard line in art.
How did things actually work out so that you could finally get your first full-length off the ground?
Once the album was written, a process that lasted mainly between ‘93 and ‘98, it was a matter of recording it properly. The difficulties were too many to mention in detail. The resulting album is as close to my original vision as I am able to come. In ‘09, after reading an interview with me at Avantgarde-metal.com, my name brother Kim from Neuropa in Belgium wanted to start a label with me. That was the birth of Adversum, which is also the label that now has released Manimalism. Releasing the album on a label I am involved in meant I could go through with the album without compromise, which is my preferred way of doing things.
Musically, the work of Manimalism is highly avant-garde work comparable to that of Arcturus. Would you say Arcturus was a major influence in the act? Who else would you say is an influence?
Arcturus has never been an influence on Manimalism whatsoever. And by the time they released La Masquerade Infernale, which I presume is the album you are referring too as a possible inspiration, most of our album was already written. If it is the vocals that you find similar, it is purely coincidental. When writing this album in my teens I was listening to a lot of different music and much of it was not metal at all. Still, metal bands that I would say have had some kind of impact on Manimalism are Celtic Frost, Morbid Angel, Thorns, Ved Buens Ende, Voivod and most certainly some doom. But already back in ‘93 I had a special fondness for Industrial, avantgarde and esoteric music, so it all bled into my own music.
Let’s talk about the writing process for Manimalism. How long have you been working on some of the songs for this release? How many more do you have leftover that you have not put on an album or have not recorded yet?
The songs on this album are pretty much the first songs I ever managed to finish. I began writing songs in ‘92, and most of the songs I wrote between ‘93 and ‘98 are what makes up this album. I have left off some songs of course and some of them deserve to be on a proper release later on. I have never stopped making music so I have a lot of songs written that we intend to record. So there will most certainly be more Manimalism releases. If people are impatient they can also get hold of Delirium Bound’s Delirium, Dissonance And Death album, which features amounts of material originally written for Manimalism. Some of it might even resurface through Manimalism in the future.
Let’s talk about the recording process for Manimalism. Where did you record it and what was the atmosphere like in the studio? Did you run into any problems while recording, or did things go rather smooth?
Considering it took me fifteen years to finish the recording we can safely say that it did not go smoothly. The recording has taken place in at least seven or so studios, and the recordings that ended up on the album were done between ‘02 and ‘13, after we scrapped the very first recordings that were done in ‘98. This album has been cursed since its inception and it has been to hell and back several times. It was written by boys and finished by men. I doubt it is possible to choose a harder path than we have.
Lyrically, what did you want to focus on with the album? Music like this is more of an art form than virtually any other form of music, so the lyrical matter isn’t nearly as important as the presentation as whole; but I’m still quite curious. Additionally, what inspires your lyrics?
Death, lust, insanity and fear are recurring themes. The inspiration is beyond my control. It originates from deep in the darker recesses of the mind, where all dreams meet. Images and sentences come to me and I tend to them as best I can. I’ve rewritten the lyrics for this album up throughout the years, so the demo versions of the same tracks from the nineties have different lyrics, but are based on the same universal, never-ending themes.
What are your top five favorite albums of all time? Why do you feel each one is important?
I can’t answer that with a simple list as it changes frequently and some of the albums that have meant a lot to me haven’t stood the test of time. However, here are a few albums that I think deserve your time:
David Bowie – Outside
Slayer – Reign In Blood
Coil – Music To Play In The Dark
Bohren & Der Club Of Gore – Black Earth
Bryan Ferry – As Time Goes By
Dead Can Dance – Within The Realm Of a Dying Sun
Music like this requires a great deal of composition, much like composing a thick classical piece. What musical training or skills did you possess before starting Manimalism?
I turned fourteen years old in ‘92 when I founded the band and I had no musical skills whatsoever. Despite my obsession with music since very young age I had until then spent my time doing visual art. Manimalism was my very first venture into music and I was learning to play as I composed this album up through my teens in the nineties. The songs on this album are the first ones I ever wrote, or at least managed to finish. Having composed the record between ‘93 and ‘99 means that I started working on this project when I was still fourteen and finished when I was twenty. In the meantime I had made a promise to myself that these songs were to make up the very first album by Manimalism and that it was to be the first proper release by this band.
What do you do when you’re not composing music? What is something about you that we wouldn’t expect to know?
Well, for fifteen years now I have been running a design studio together with my life partner Trine. Besides working for publishing houses and corporate clients we have made artworks for artists like Ulver, Shining, Darkthrone, Solefald, Mayhem, Manes, Ved Buens Ende, Virus, Enslaved, Dødheimsgard and many more. I also make and release music with Blitzkrieg Baby and Swarms. Blitzkrieg Baby (as reviewed here in The Grim Tower) is electronic music with heavy leanings towards a kind of twisted death pop, but rooted in dark Industrial music. Swarms composes commissioned music for contemporary ballet, amongst others and does conceptual or ritualized recordings of cinematic music.
What is your opinion of music these days? Are you under the impression that it’s not as good as it used to be, or do you think that things have evolved further in some aspects?
There is a lot of good music coming out and I often find good new music. People’s attention spans are much worse than before though and the sheer amount of information is too much to handle, so we become lazy and that makes it hard for a lot of good stuff to break through the wall of apathy.
What would you say that you hold belief in, if anything? What is your opinion of religion?
I think that question deserves an answer that would make this interview way too long. However, you can be certain that I am not fond of organized religion.
Finally, what might we expect from Manimalism in the future? Will you be able to take this project to a live setting? Or is it too early to tell at this point?
I wish I could say that we will be playing live but it looks unlikely at this point. However, we are planning to continue recording music as soon as possible. Considering this album was written a long time ago and we have never stopped evolving or writing, there is more material being finalized as we speak and the quality will only increase, so if you enjoyed the first album then there will be a lot to look forward to.
Thanks for answering my questions and for such a powerful release. I hope that it is received well and I wish you the best of luck in all future endeavors. It was definitely worth the wait. – Eric
Thanks a lot, Eric. I am glad you enjoyed the album.