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KING OF ASGARD: A Monument In Viking metal!

Interview with bassist Joonas Albrektsson by Vera in March 2017

We are always on the tiptoe of expectations when hearing about new work of King Of Asgard. In the end these Swedish Vikings can be considered being the continuation from the nineties cult outfit Mithotyn. On top of that, they include our beloved raucousness, but always come up with infectious melodies (mostly folk inspired), that’s why their sound ends up somewhere between Amon Amarth and Einherjer. Since their previous sword’s feat ’Karg’, nearly three years have passed and the band went through strenuous days, yet stronger than ever they came out this battle with ‘:taudr:’. We approached bassist Jonas Albrektsson to get to know all details of it.

Hello Jonas! Let us continue our ongoing story about King Of Asgard, now that the fourth studio album ‘:taudr:’ is about to come out! How do you feel now that another piece of art is ready to be revealed to the fans?
Hey! It feels really awesome as it's been quite a struggle to get to this point with many ups and downs along the way. But we fought hard and here we are standing strong and proud with the all fresh : t a u d r : in physical form in our worn hands. We're very satisfied with everything and how it turned out, it's breathing so much new air with changed line-up, new studio, label partners and so forth and the outcome is just as perfect as it possibly could be. So we're really looking forward to all of our followers getting to share what we've accomplished. This is a monument, a piece of art, in the history of King Of Asgard for sure!

But let us pick up the thread right after our interview for ‘Karg’. I remember that it was uncertain whether you could hit the road or play gigs to support ‘Karg’. Did it turn out for the better? Could you manage to do some selected gigs or tours?
This has always been a hard spot for King Of Asgard unfortunately. It's been a struggle to get our personal commitments (work, families etc.) to serve along with the band in terms of tours and shows. We do try our best to get it done though and really enjoy playing live, so we're still trying to get our shit together as much as possible to get out and give our fans live shows which they of course deserve. Just unfortunate it's too seldom. So, still, bring us your offers and we might show up and we'll manage if the Gods are along our path.

I found out that you even play at a pagan festival in Brazil, Sao Paulo. What a different vibe from the North haha. Please tell me all about this experience…
Haha, it sure was a different experience and exciting trip of which we had no idea of what to expect. As you say, it's a different vibe. It was probably or most likely a deed of a madman to travel that far for just one single show. Nonetheless, King Of Asgard did and now afterwards I believe it was all worth it though the hours of travelling was insane to say the least. It was really awesome to meet our fans over there and they were very dedicated and showcased the trip was worth doing. The actual show went off well too and we gave them the longest live set we've ever done and according to the response, during and after, it was all well executed. So, meeting all people and of course seeing Saó Paulo and bathe in the big blue is what will stick to memories as a great experience. This, when the memories of all the air ports- flights- car drives- wait- and so forth is gone. It was an awesome thing for us as a band to experience that's for sure.

We have to go deeper into quite a few changes within the band. 2015 must have been quite a difficult year, since two members left the band. What was the reason for that and what did you feel when parting ways with these guys?
Yeah, true that was a difficult time, both for us personally and also apparently within the band. There's several reasons for these changes and different things occurred, mainly personal, during a long run as well as things almost brought this band to an end. There was a certain lack of interest and dedication so to speak which made this changes happen and our plans even changed after the execution as well. Anyway we all agreed on this and it came as no surprise that we went different ways (with former members Karsten and Lars) and had different ways and interests in approaching King Of Asgard. It was a really hard decision for us to make, absolutely, but it had to be done for the future of the band to say it in a brief way. We all agreed and went separate ways without any hard feelings actually, of course it was no fun but at least we stayed friends and still are to this date, so nothing is changed in that sense apart from that we don't play together anymore. So, all the best to them for what they've done and will achieve in the future.

Fortunately you managed to find replacement. Did it happen smooth or was it a tough job to find new drummer and guitarist? Can you please tell a bit more about the background of Ted Sjulmark and Mathias Westman?
Actually it did happen smoothly, though it of course took some time and effort. We knew both Mathias and Ted from the past and they both were interested in trying it out immediately and thus the story goes. They both were flattered that we even asked and had a very positive energy from the very start and now they're both part of the band with full force and for some years now already. Well they've both been into extreme metal for many years, though they are younger than us, and played in lots of different bands as well. I guess they are most known from their present bands beside King Of Asgard. Ted is also part and main man in the Viking horde Grimner which been around for probably as long as King Of Asgard and he's also doing other music activities along that. A hard working guitarist. Mathias is beside King Of Asgard in Throne Of Heresy, also for many years and where also Ted used to be guitarist in the past. He's also in Vanhelgd along with me. So they both have many years in the 'business' and they are both very talented musicians and great guys to hang out with. So, the recruitment was successful and do I need to say we're happy with the outcome and result of it all, guess not.

When did you write the new material? What can you tell about the writing process this time?
It's been written ever since we finished up with 'Karg' basically. We always write, save and throw stuff away. It's a long process with peaks in creativity of course. So the material could be from the 'Karg'-era up to just before entering the studio. We're always considering things, back and forth. The foundation and process of our songwriting has been pretty much the same as before. With Karl and me sorting most things out but surely Mathias and Ted have set their marks and ideas to the songs and thus affected the process to something somewhat different. Mathias by improving the drum patterns and arranging them along with us in the rehearsal room and Ted as well with skilled guitar solos and other awesome leads. That's maybe something new and a development and an obvious improvement when listening carefully to the new songs. But mainly the basic structures and process is the same, it worked well before and still does.

I think the new album includes more fetching songs again, more accessible material than on ‘Karg’. Do you agree with that?
Both yes and no. It's hard to say but surely there are some really catchy stuff along the way as well as I see much of the material being darker and heavier than before, but I'm not sure whether it's more or less accessible. I don't really think in such terms and neither do we do when we write the material. It reflects our mood and strive at the time. It's probably easier for a bystander / external observer to mark the difference but it's sure interesting to hear the reflections and carefully think about such statements.

Nevertheless the lyrics should be darker. Can you tell a bit more about the lyrical contents on this album? What does :taudr: mean and how does it rely to the material?
On ‘:taudr:’ rather the dark and say hopeless is present, the elevation of what we highly appreciate and value. All seen from the perspective of the word death (or dying/dead/taudr). Very broad and, as usual, widely vague with references to myths and legends well known in written tongue as well as extremely local, (our own surrounding) personal and left for own suggestions and/or interpretations.
The word/title 'taudr' actually is pretty tricky to explain in detail, but it's self translated from a runic inscription on a rune stone close to where we live which also is the actual title, written in runic letters. It's actually 'tauther' to be correct but we thought 'taudr' was better off both in text and as well as in spoken word (for reading and pronunciation) as it sounds closer to the Swedish word that is; 'döder'. Döder (old Swedish) being dead, death or the like depending on the actual sentence. I guess that grammar wasn't that important when carving a rune stone. The actual tribute and monument was crucial. So we lend that word from this particular stone as it fit one lyric as well as it also serve as the album title very well and in somewhat the same tradition as the previous albums. It was Sätor who erected the stone in memory of his dead brother Tore... nothing to do with the lyric or album though. To sum it all up, a word from our region, a heritage tribute, carved for more than a thousand years ago which has covered its shadow over the album and its concept as well as can be heard in the song “:taudr:”.

Which new elements would you like to mention? I think more clean chants… And which instrument do we hear on the folk intro of ‘Death… And A New Sun’? Are there guests on the album?
There are more clean vocals this time I believe, yes. This is simply due to that Ted is a very talented singer and thus it makes us being able to perform it with full force live as well and thus we put more of it in the songs. It kind of broadens our sound and increases the epic elements. The instrument in question is called Hurdy-Gurdy (Vevlira in Swedish), an old string instrument which has the exact sound we were looking for at this intro. We had the luck to meet a guy, Mikael Lindström, playing it when we saw him perform with his band Apocalypse Orchestra. Right away I asked if he was interested and when time was right, we had him record it for us and it really became as good as we had imagined. Also we have a speech performance by a guy called Eldar from Norway whom read from the Volusá verses in the same song.

Another refreshment might have been working in another studio with another producer. I remember your long term cooperation with Andy LaRocque. What made you decide to change and how was it working with Magnus ‘Devo’ Andersson?
True! Refreshment indeed. King Of Asgard has actually thought about going there before as we've considered the sound might suit us well. This time around Mathias, our new drummer, had been working at Endarker with Throne Of Heresy and talked very positive about the studio and Devo as an individual and thus we figured it was about time to try. We spoke to him and he really was enthusiastic on having us as well and wanted to give it a try. The studio is also located just one hour drive by car from here and thus way better in terms of connection than for example Sonic Train where the other albums were recorded. Now, with the result in our hands we're more than satisfied and don't regret the decision a bit. Everyone in the band was satisfied with the session and the result as well as Devo whom really was fond of the result and working with us. So Endarker was a new found, perfect match. Devo for sure strengthened us as a band as well and is a great part in the result being so surprisingly impressive. I believe this was a very important move for King Of Asgard along with the other changes we've gone through. So, greatest of experience for sure and again, a refreshment for the whole band.

’:taudr:’ will come out at a smaller yet dedicated pagan label Trollmusic. What is the story behind the label switch and leaving Metal Blade?
The label switch is mainly due to some factors that has happened during the last years with us, as a band, almost facing the end but strengthened and rose again. Our years at Metal Blade were really, really, good and we're pleased with those years and albums. A very good cooperation and very professional staff. Our contract just ended while we had some difficulties and such. Thus we agreed on letting go instead of sending them new demos and so forth. We had some other interests as well but figured the best thing would be stepping down and rebuild. Thor (Trollmusic) and I have been friends for quite some years and we just came across the idea on working together. An idea we figured fit us very well at that moment in time and here we are accompanied by the guys over at Prophecy Productions. I believe we're more comfortable with this situation at the moment and let’s just see where it leads. King Of Asgard's fans will most likely find us no matter how or what as we're more situated in the underground as well. That's where we feel safe and probably belong.

You worked intensively together with Mattias Frisk on the artwork. It is mighty! Can you tell a bit more about the creation of this captivating artwork?
Yes he's almost a part of the band by now! Mattias was once again hired for the visuals, art, layout and photos. This time around we decided to work together at a very early stage and thus me and him came up with the idea together when the title was set and the underlying meaning of it or rather the whole album and its direction. We were discussing the cover art back and forth and came up with the idea with the hands. The flesh that is transforming into roots, reconnecting with the earth and the black, white and grey underscore the symbolic death pose of the resting half closed positioning of the hands. At the same time it holds some tension and struggle within it. We also worked together on the lay-out as we're kind of picky on the whole package and Mattias as well is very keen on doing his best and please us and realize our ideas. It's darker and a bit more stripped down this time and looks absolutely awesome in all terms and fits really well with what peoples ears will experience. He's a great artist and we're proud to bare his art!

In the past you have shot a couple of impressive music video clips. Are there plans to visualize one of the new songs? With Rickard Moneus again?
Yes there are plans, but this was unfortunately postponed and put on ice very abrupt due to personal reasons. So stay tuned in this matter which is lurking right behind the corner.

Now a naughty question hehe: why only 34 minutes music and presenting it as a full length?
Hm, I believe it's presented as an EP and thus it's a long one, right? Almost close to a full length album. We kind of look upon ‘:taudr:’ as a full length album as it's so complete and as we decided to skip some songs for just that purpose. There's no fillers just the very best of King Of Asgard and I think that will last for a while for sure. Maybe it didn't say very clear, not sure, but nonetheless that's what it is, a fully stuffed EP…

We know that you are not a permanent touring band, but are there any plans for live shows?
True as mentioned a bit above. Guess we will be known for our few appearances soon I'm afraid. Anyway, we'll try to get out more than before if our schedules work as said. It would really be great, of course, to meet the fans and greet them with our bastard son, ‘:taudr:’ as much as possible. Still the occasions are rare but this could change... we can show up when least expected. There are some plans in the pipeline, so we will play some shows for sure and we just did our first this weekend on ‘:taudr:’ in Viborg, Denmark. A release gig and some other stuff as well.

And in general, what are the plans for the near future?
For now we're just finally facing the release which we've been longing for and to get the response from all our followers out there. Do some gigs of course and hopefully start some new sketches as well, you know how the circle goes.

If there is anything you’d like to add, please feel free to do so…
Thanks Vera for having us and supporting King of Asgard! Awesome. Make sure to check out and support the album ’ : t a u d r :’, you won’t be disappointed, I'm pretty sure. Hope to see you, Einhärjare, from stage... Horns up!

Geplaatst door Vera op zaterdag 22 april 2017 - 23:36:06
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