TTI: To succumb means to surrender to pressure, despair, temptation or some other negative or destructive influence. In that respect, it is interesting that you’ve decided to name the opening song on Domus Mysterium that way, even though there’s hardly anything gloomy about that beautiful piece of music. Can you explain that contradiction?
Oskar J. Frederiksen: It can be a contradiction, indeed, but before we delve more into those aspects, I would like to stress that it isn’t necessarily a negative thing to succumb. I think it can be incredibly positive as well, in fact more, to just let go completely and let the energy of a certain moment take over your entire being and let the flow decide how things will be from there on, for an amount of time or forever. So if you view it in that light, I think the tranquility of the piece perfectly accompanies that mood. But then again, not everyone will think it’s a good idea to lose control, so they might see a contradiction between that concept and a set of notes, that are essentially calm and beautiful, although filled with a tremendous portion of energy. I like to work with contradictions though, and to put things upside down, viewing it from another angle. For example, Move In Chaos from our previous EP is essentially just the opposite of Rest In Peace. Also, I’ve often wondered if hell is actually heaven and I think the answer to questions like these all depends on your stance, how your lens is set up, and with what attitude you view things.
TTI: Speaking of Succumb and how tranquil that song is, would you say that your personal sensibilities are better represented by that kind of delicate moments of beauty or by torrents of unrestrained brutality that you also channel with similar effectiveness?
Oskar J. Frederiksen: Our temper is represented by both since we contain both of these aspects, which the musick is a sonic representation of. It’s all an extension of our personalities: we can be fragile and emotional, but also vicious, aggressive and quite blunt at times. At the same time, I feel we, as you say, channel certain energies, and as you might know, energies flow, up and down, hence the dynamic aspects of what we do. It’s all about light and shade, making the contrasts clear, so that the hard edge is made even harder by the calm moments, and vice versa.
TTI: As musicians, have you already reached that level of technical proficiency where you can play your instruments by letting the emotions take over, without thinking too much about what you’re actually doing?
Oskar J. Frederiksen: I can only speak for myself, and the answer is mostly no. I don’t think I am a specifically technically gifted guitarist or musician. My main job is to write great songs, and perform them with as much heartfelt passion as possible. Of course, I rehearse the songs, both on my own and with the rest of the group, to the point where I just play them without thinking, mostly feeling them, but I still make technical mistakes all the time. That isn’t incredibly important though. In the context, a mistake might get lost or otherwise, if you play a mistake with enough conviction and belief, it is not a mistake.
TTI: Can you say something about the social background of Slægt members? What do you do in life, what are your professions and do you have any significant personal ambitions and goals outside of music? Considering that time is extremely limited resource and that Slægt goes about its business pretty seriously, is it even possible to find enough time, energy and motivation to be ambitious about anything else besides music?
Oskar J. Frederiksen: I think it’s all a matter of will, when it comes to balancing what we do in Slægt with what other activities we have in life. If you want to make it work, you will make it so, if you take the right decisions and constantly analyse your position and where you are heading. With regards to our backgrounds and what we do outside of the project, I can’t tell you much. We come from pretty normal families and live quite mundane lives: some of us have jobs, others put as much energy as possible into this project or other musickal endeavours. Maybe one day we will concentrate entirely on this project, but that is a question of timing and it also has to make sense and feel right. At the moment, our focus is on making sure that Domus Mysterium gets out there in the right way and after that, we will place our attention on the next recordings.
TTI: You are usually referred to as a black/heavy metal band. On this album, it seems, that black metal component can be found only in traces. Would you say that some traits of what black metal traditionally represents, both in terms of sound and aesthetics, still define you as a band, considering the current stage of the band’s development?
Oskar J. Frederiksen: When I started out the project in 2011, it was never the plan to make black metal. I just made some songs, which, by accident if you will, turned out to sound very black metal like. But it was just what flowed out of me at the time, and if there had been flowing folk ballads out of me, then so be it, that would have been the starting point. Of course, black metal has played a huge part in shaping my musical taste and how I look on certain aspects of being alive, so I won’t write it off completely. It is just that the focus is not on writing within a certain genre or style, rather we want to express ourselves and whatever flows from our hearts will take place in our compositions. The song is always the master, and we help the ideas, that are gifted to us, into this world, in the best way possible.
TTI: According to your own interpretation, that interesting image on the front cover of Domus Mysterium represents The Eye of the Devil. Assuming that that syntagm is a metaphor, what does it stand for? Regardless of how you personally interpret the force that is archetypically represented and personalized by the image of the devil, do you really feel that your music does that sinister force a justice? Are you evil enough to burden your frail shoulders with something so demanding?
Oskar J. Frederiksen: The Eye of the Devil symbolises a core of massive energy that cannot be contained within, so it has to break out and affect its surroundings, for the better or worse, depending on how you view it. We have never publicly claimed that our musick does any force any justice, but it certainly feels, to me at least, that there is a certain wicked order attached to what we do, and I base that on several experiences I have had, since the project started, both in relation to songwriting, but also when it comes to how things have evolved, how I have received my ideas, lyrics and so on. There has been some weird moments, which maybe would have frightened others, but I have felt myself in the presence of something dark and beautiful, and I have chosen to pursue these images and vibrations, that have shown themselves to me. I don’t consider myself evil, but I am sure I have the capability to do evil deeds and, furthermore, I am also pretty sure that some actions I have done in the past were considered evil by the ones they affected. But, as said in another answer here, it all depends on how you view it.
TTI: Considering that one song on this album was named precisely after that image on the front cover, how important for you was to make a strong statement with it? Is that song, in terms of its symbolical connotations, the most important song you have written thus far?
Oskar J. Frederiksen: It is important for us to make a strong statement with every song we write, and we haven’t put more emphasis on The Eye Of The Devil than on any other song we have written. We try to make sure that every song we are working with at the time turns out as good as possible, and then we have to see if it fits into the context. So with that being said, our body of work until now is the most important, not one specific song or release, for that matter.
TTI: In my opinion, a solid lead guitarist is what all aspiring metal bands need these days in order to take their music to another level, and the fact that your sound relies heavily on leads and solos is probably the main reason why I’m so fond of it. That being said, I can hear a lot of Thin Lizzy and early Iron Maiden in that department. Would you deem those two bands an important influences?
Oskar J. Frederiksen: Yes, we would. But our inspiration for making great harmonies comes as much from theories developed by ourselves as well as from theories on the matter from the middle ages and forward. The fact that we put our melodies into a rock context of course leads you to think of Maiden, Lizzy and their ilk which is fair enough, since we love and respect those bands immensely, but we are more interested in making something of value to us and something that is worthwhile, rather than paying shallow tribute to other musicians whose work we admire.
TTI: Domus Mysterium means mysterious house in Latin. What kind of house is that?
Oskar J. Frederiksen: It actually means the house of mystery, as far as I understand it. I took it from a Leonard Cohen song Seems So Long Ago, Nancy. In that song, he sings about Nancy, and her father being inside the house of mystery. I interpret this place as death. We already had a handful of songs whose title begins with the, so I chose to translate this one to Latin. There’s also a little Mayhem reference in there, obviously. It’s a fitting song to give name to the album, it contains all our strong sides I would say, musically, lyrically and expression-wise. And, as said, it’s just another name for death. Since most of our songs deal with that topic, or big/drastic change and freedom which also can be a metaphor for that, it also makes sense to have that song as the title track, in that regard.
TTI: You have recently said in some other interview that this album helped Slægt to gain a much better understanding of its own identity. The question of identity, with everything it entails, is a subject I find very interesting. In that respect, what precisely comprises the identity of Slægt? Are those identity features inherently related to the band’s sound and the way it evolved over the last couple of years or to how you feel about yourselves as people and musicians?
Oskar J. Frederiksen: I think it mostly relates to how we view ourselves: what our strong points are, in which ways are we unique, where can we improve, and how far do we want to take it and at what cost. But how we view ourselves is of course also connected to the musick. It is hard for me to be really precise about this, to be honest, since it is mostly just a feeling. I sense that we found our place on Beautiful And Damned EP because it seems like something fell into where it belongs with that release, and now, this home we’ve created has expanded and we’ve become familiar with the surroundings. I don’t think I can explain it in a less pretentious way. That’s how it goes when you try to grasp very abstract matter and make its contours be sensible to others, who wears a different set of glasses than you do.
TTI: Remember It’s A Nightmare refers to a real-life experience of yours. Apparently, you came up with the lyrics for that song after having a clash with someone close to you. Please, if it’s possible to explain something like that without getting too deep into specifics, can you describe how a strained relation with another person can grow into something that resembles a nightmare? You obviously aren’t a person to fuck around with, aren’t you?
Oskar J. Frederiksen: I won’t go into specifics here. There are no juicy details, and the matter is private. But of course, if you feel treated unfairly you get frustrated and want to do something about it. In this case, I was in a situation where I felt mistreated, but I couldn’t really do anything about it, so I figured that the best way to get release was to write those lyrics, and also, curse my wrongdoers for all eternity. I will let others judge if I am a person not to fuck around with.
TTI: Is it true that Norwegians, Swedes and Finns often deem Denmark a second-rate Scandinavian country? If the answer is yes, would you say that affects music as well? Considering how strong their local metal scenes are, is it possible for a Danish metal band to successfully tour in those countries?
Oskar J. Frederiksen: You will have to ask a person from one of those countries about that. We haven’t toured in any of those countries yet, so I can’t answer the second question either, sorry.
TTI: Speaking of Danish bands, how do you feel about Phrenelith and Undergang, two of the most exciting entities in Danish death metal underground at the moment? Anything else dwelling in basements of Copenhagen that you feel is noteworthy? Feel free to name some names.
Oskar J. Frederiksen: Yes, those are really good bands, and it seems that our scene, if a handful of bands doing their thing can be called a scene, is really strong and lively these years, which is good of course. I would like to mention death metal band Taphos, hardcore/d-beat band Halshug, nocturnal speed metallers Encyrcle and twin lead guitar stoner/doom band Demon Head. All great bands, that everyone should check out. Some of them have released albums, some have only done a handful of smaller releases. But they all deserve praise, and we have played with all of them as well. Find them and listen.
TTI: Over the years, Sven of Ván Records has made a respectable brand out of his label, as most of his releases have something that makes them stand out, in one way or another. That being said, I think Ván and Slægt are a natural fit, you totally belong on that roster. How did you two find each other and what made you settle for them?
Oskar J. Frederiksen: We went with Ván primarily because we knew they could do a great job with the presentation of our work. They always make stunning physical releases. We also like the family feel of the label, and have already struck up some friendships with persons from other bands on the roster. And with regards to other bands on the label, that is another major reason for wanting to work with them, they have put out some of our favourite contemporary acts. We are very satisfied with being a brick in the house they are building.
TTI: In addition, do you see yourselves signing with some major metal label in the future? Would you trade passion, enthusiasm and the family feel of an underground label for a better promotion and visibility a bigger ones can provide? Is the band’s ultimate goal promotion-wise to be as visible and as available to wider audiences as possible?
Oskar J. Frederiksen: We strive to do only what feels right to us, at the moment or with regards to where we want to take the project. Our cooperation with Ván is still at a very early stage, and we want to make the best of it. So that is where our focus is right now. Of course, our goal is to take it as far as we can, but who says that’s not possible with Ván? Domus Mysterium is out now, and we want to focus on giving it the best way out in the world as possible. What happens next, we will decide at that time.
TTI: How many more albums that will stylistically follow this one and the previous EP you think you can squeeze out of yourselves before you completely explore and drain that particular metal idiom? Also, if and when you move on from it, do you see the band’s new sound being mellower or more aggressive than it is today?
Oskar J. Frederiksen: Only time can tell with regards to these matters. We will undoubtedly know when we have drained the well from which we draw our waters, and when that time comes, I am sure we will feel it is time to let the project be concluded. But as said, time will tell. With regard to the sound being more mellow or aggressive, I think it is both in a way, since our intent has become more focused. We will continue to explore this foray, but again, we are not completely sure were it will take us. I can only tell you, that we have a very good feeling in our bellies, and we are sure that great things are in store.
Originally published on 17th May 2017.
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