A much discussed band that creates untraditional black metal. It is eerie, it is evil, it is dark and every sign of joy disappears to the rhythm of the music. In what is only his second ever interview, and, according to him, it will be a long, long time before he does another, General Gribbsphiiser talks about the ideas behind Slagmaur, about the music, the lyrics and about black metal.
…read part 2/3 here…
Von Rov Shelter - an ending to harmony
While we sit here and talk, while the sun is shining and all, General Gribbsphiiser and I agree that we really do not like the sound of sun and summer. He says that he is an autumn - and spring type of human, and I don't know what I am, except that I don't like the sun that much. He thinks that "Von Rov Shelter" should be released during the autumn and adds that "Skrekk Lich Kunstler" was released in November 2007. Well, "Von Rov..." was supposed to be in the streets in May 2009, but self-fulfilling prophecies, how can we live without them... The date is now 28th of September!
The music on "Von Rov Shelter" is even more complex than the former full-lenght, and it demands a lot of you. The album needs a lot of time, something that is interesting in a society where everything is about instant gratification and everybody goes for the more-more-more kind of life, preferably as cheap as possible and without any sign of effort to get anything. Being a bit out of line, I wonder if "Von Rov..." is an antithesis to society the way we know it? The General speaks of the production again.
"The production is extremely conscious. It is anything but superfluous, if you know what I mean. There's a lot of information, and at the same time the music is hypnotizing. So, it's not easy to hear everything at once... On "The Devil And The Life" there is a choir after the first verse, which is quite upfront actually. But at the same time it's a bit anonymous, which means that on a first listen the brain doesn't perceive what's going on."
Will those who have like easy and crystal clear black metal be able to relate to this... The General explains.
"A lot of this has to do with the first melody that people manage to relate to, and the music must be catchy enough so that the listener wants to listen to it again. There are some elements that are in the open and are impossible to avoid. The best example is the symphonic section in "Klokker Tramp". That hits the nail on the head.
When we have someone like you, who spends a lot of time on the album(s), it is possible to discover most of the information in the music. But as I wrote on the cover of "Skrekk Lich Kunstler" if someone slates the music, then he is a poser! The reason for writing this is that I wanted people to feel obliged to listen to the music, since nobody wants to be a poser (laughs). And when you end up liking the album, you can feel a kind of victory! To overcome your first impression of Mayhem's "Ordo Ad Chao" and even end up liking the album, that's a victory in itself."
Talking about good time, I know albums that have got mediocre score due to publishing deadlines, and when I talk to the reviewer half a year later the score would be five or six out of six. This is just the way it is, and maybe "Von Rov Shelter" will suffer from this... Anyways, when it comes to details and the contents in the music, General Gribbsphiiser pretinent remarks:
"33 minutes with Slagmaur contains more music than fifty Darkthrone albums.
Even if the album has received praise already, 95 % of those have mentioned the short playing time, thinking that it is too short. Man, it's better to leave people wanting more, rather than giving them too much insubstantial stuff. "Skrekk Lich Kunstler" couldn't have been a single minute longer. We have even cut out music that didn't fit 100%. A song that contained melody lines from "The Nightmare Before Christmas" was removed from "Von Rov Shelter", both due to the total playing time but also because things can be too much when we work with various classical themes."
Prior to meeting the General I listened to "Von Rov Shelter" one last time, and after having heard the album ca. 50 times the two month ahead of our conversation, there were still new elements I heard on the final track "Ramaskrik". I guess those who hate the album often are those who listen to it one or two times. All they hear is the monotonous rhythm. Once again the General talks about the production and explains that he wanted to take things one step further.
"I start with one melody line whose purpose is to hook the listener's attention right away. And when you reach the point of familiarisation, the idea is that you should start to explore all the other aspects that lie behind the wall of sound."
When General Gribbsphiiser pukes, spits and hisses "...Let's end this harmonic piece of shit...", I become equally surprised every time. It's ruthless...
"A bit funny perhaps, but my conscience is somewhat bad since the album is so fucking dark, even though I become happy when I listen to it. That line has some kind of The Shining-atmosphere, and is different compared to the rest of the album. I puke, and then I spit this line out to show that we're back on track again, before the final part comes in. I had no second thoughts about doing it this way."
The musician's experience of his own music is often different than the listener's, and the artists are often done with the albums when we, the listeners, start the process of getting to know it. But the General is far from done with "Von Rov Shelter".
"I briefly started to get tired of "Skrekk Lich Kunstler" while "Von Rov..." still haunts my mind. There is no music that gives me goose bumps in the way my own does. And I think people experience the music in different ways, something that makes sense if you bear in mind complex mixing process. Everybody gets the dark emotions, but after that there are numerous and varied directions that people take."
Cover - dance for me satan
Now, why did the cover of "Von Rov Shelter" end up as it did?
"Hmm, I can't really answer that..., I guess I don't really know yet. I think the teacher-photo is one of the coolest pictures that we did, but nobody is ready for that yet. I think it's totally great! I notice that people don't like it, but I don't really understand the controversy in connection with that photo. This goes for what we do in general – people talk about the controversial aspects, no matter what we do, but I genuinely don't get it. I don't always know why things turn out as they do..., something just speaks to me."
I tell him that what I have read on the new cover, it seems like people actually like it. The General comments dryly that there's a first time for everything.
"When the cover of "Skrekk Lich Kunstler" was shown to the public, a lot of people commented that it was one of the worst covers they've ever seen, but if Ulver had come up with something similar I'm sure they would have been praised for it. I think the cover Robert Høyem has composed is very good, and he captured exactly what I had in mine."
I think there's a certain Devil Doll feeling to that cover. The General doesn't see that and after some discussion he laughingly ends the discussion by pretending that the cover of "Eliogabalus" doesn't exist. What about controversy in connection with the cover of "Von Rov Shelter"?
"I don't think there is anything controversial in it, and the same symbolism (Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting “The Last Supper) has been used in many different connections previously. I have become a bit tired of the corpse paint aspect of Slagmaur, and prefer to use the gods and plague masks that you can see on the cover. We have also begun to think about performing live, and the visual aspects are part of that thought.
There is a different kind of symbolism connected to the various masks, be it the plague or the gods, the Reptilian age and so on... Interestingly, back in the 13th century doctors believed that they would avoid the Black Death if the wore such masks. Another thing is that we don't want to show our faces when we eventually play live. Perhaps we will end up with the three of us wearing such masks, while the others are demons?
I was a bit inspired by the movie "The Exorcism Of Emily Rose" when I got the idea of what the demons should look like. You can actually hear a sample on the final track, and that's the woman in the movie who says how many demons she has inside herself. You have the whole wild bunch on the cover; Legion, Judas, Nergal, Lucifer... The only thing that is different is that we have included Lilith. Incidentally if you look at the colour of our clothes in the “Final Supper” scene and then the Google logo, you can see that the colours are in the same order. There is something genuine about that logo, and many people come up with conspiracy theories when it comes to Google...
Getting back to our cover, I can't really understand what is so fantastic about the original Da Vinci painting. But we have learned a lot from that painting, about composition, shading and the colours. The original has a strange composition, where Jesus' hand almost covers the depth of the table. So, when we worked on our version we chose to alter this and do it more correctly. The table had to be at a 30-degree angle, and we had to secure everything on it using double-sided tape. We had to sit and stand in unnatural positions to make it look right."
The General has previously told me that the fruit on the cover is also a melody that is on the album and that we can try to find it ourselves, even though it may be difficult. When it comes to the theme of the album, it closes by "...så Dans for meg satan". General Gribbsphiiser tells me that he anti-Christ, or Satan if you will, is described in the previous album in the same way as in Danichen's books, namely that the gods are austronauts. I wonder, isn't it strange how so many people believe in God, Jesus, Satan and all their relatives?
"I don't think so. They are unhappy, therefore they need something that gives their life some sort of meaning. This used to annoy me a lot, but... You have the false sense of security about assuring yourself a place in Heaven. Yes, first yourself and then perhaps somebody else. As I said before, I don't see the point in wasting energy on this anymore. However, I am using some on black metal bands that write anti-Christian lyrics but who wrap their message in music that never reaches those who actually are Christians. Aside from the musical aspect, it's kind of wasted energy. The battle is within ourselves. We are the ones that must grow, and let the others waste their lives trying to whatever they are search for."
I agree, and I have pondered a bit on this topic and how those who began the black metal saga chose to let their har grow, to not dress up like John Doe, didn't enter the politics and got some power. Instead they burnt a few churches, something that had the opposide effect. It created fear, yes, but when fear grows people tend to get closer together, such as the Christians did.
"Yes, and we explore this in real life in the next photos we'll shoot for Slagmaur during next year's Norwegian Independence Day (17.05.10), with 2000 people out here in Fosen."
How has the response to your creations actually been?
"I have already said a bit about this, but there are those who write to me personally and send me stuff they have created themselves. Not everything has a direct connection to "Skrekk Lich Kunstler", but it's interesting to see how colours are used when somebody paints while being inspired by the music. There are mostly red and black, and dark colours. I know some who do not like black metal at all, but who have found something in Slagmaur. I think that's great.
Everybody has dark emotions, and Slagmaur represents this. The music has a sombre feeling to it, a feeling of anguish, and that's something people recognize when they listen to our music because it connects with something in their own lives. But if you really want to understand all this, it comes down to how you perceive and understand the world of General Gribbsphiiser's Slagmaur. You have enough hints in the booklets, and either you get it, or it just serves as a small insight into a Hell you want to avoid like the plague, yet it is something that attracts you nevertheless. You know, people love nothing more than the sicker side of thinks, take for example the recent Fritzl case in Austria. People love to read and hear about these things...
A few centuries ago, in Norway as well, people used to gather to see mass-executions. It was the equivalent to our World Championships on those days... It was mystical, it was crazy, it was fucking brutal and at the same time it was fascinating in a sick way. So, when all comes down to it, humans are basically perverts!"
The General refers to
, which shows people being executed. The amount of hits were insane. When they found out who was watching these, it was all kinds of poeple. They need some sort of exitement in their lives, and there are few, if any, taboos left. General Gribbsphiiser states that due to people's superfluous lives many searches for more extreme situations in order to feel anything at all. Pedophili is still a taboo, but for how long?
"Things just get worse and worse. Humanity shows its true nature with "...Rov...". We are carnivores and just live on the outside of ourselves, that is something Slagmaur manages to reveal, even though the covers, the lyrics, booklet and the music leave much room for interpretations. But, as long as something is art, and that is the art itself... It affects you; you get something out of what you're listening to. If you become glad or sad, doesn't matter.
I have noticed that those who begin to like Slagmaur easily become super fans, or they don't understand anything at all. I appreciate that, because I don't want any mediocre feedback."
What about the next album? General Gribbsphiiser gives me the title of the album but we feel it's too early to make it public, since "Von Rov Shelter" is not even released...
"On the upcoming album we will broaden our horizon a bit. We have kept to the area around Fosen, but there will be English lyrics, something I didn't think would ever happen. Without giving too much away, the songs and especially the choruses will be even catchier. Don't worry though, it will remain very dark and eerie and everything I do will bear my signature."
Composed by Roy Kristensen