Sweden’s Domgård have released their newest opus of pure black metal, Ödelagt, and it is a rather fantastic album. I was provided the opportunity to ask the bandleader Grim Vindkall a few questions, covering the beginnings of the band, their time served for arson, the death of their vocalist, and the recording of the new album.
When asked about the formation of Domgård, Grim says, “It was made to be,” as the band was formed quickly after Vindkall, Orm, and Trollheim met. “It was intensive times in the good old 90’s, and we shared the same vision.” It was natural to include Ulv since he and Vindkall were friends since childhood and they played in other “constellations” earlier. Vindkall met Illbrand in the late 90’s. “Since he was mentally charged with the fuel of a volcano, it was suitable to include him too, since we were looking for a new vocalist back at the time.”
In the year 2000 the band, minus Ulv, were tried and convicted for church arson, with Orm convicted of one count, and sentenced to two and a half years, while Vindkall and Illbrand were convicted of two counts of arson, and sentenced to five years, being released on the same date. When asked about the church burnings, and the reasons behind them, Vindkall has a lot to say.
“It was a violent although natural sequence of the everlasting struggle of ideas. One can dream of strawberry fields, but even there rules the law of nature and permanent competition. That’s what life and history is about, regardless what one wishes for. The world is a battlefield.
“Sure, we were young guys when we burned the churches, and I think it’s fair to say these actions were affected by our young age (even though the powers of young age can be a vigor in itself and shouldn’t be too underestimated). But Christianity destroyed most of all the native Indo-European traditions so there is nothing to mourn, I think.
“You receive what you give. … I think the world would be a more dignified, wider and deeper place without the Abrahamitic religions, but there are certainly different methods to reach that point.
When suggested that Christianity is the interloper in Nordic religion and life, Vindkall agrees.
“I think this attitude is somehow widespread over the world, yet it dwells latent but not so deep under the surface. Most nations in the world know, at least subconsciously, Christianity was enforced on them and that it in many ways has held the world back. When the wheel turns in the chapter of time, like it always does sooner or later, many people will eventually abandon Christianity and maybe search their own roots.
“Or maybe they will only be rootless and mindless consumers in a prison like global state. Who knows?
“Personally, I don’t care about other persons individual beliefs but I’ve since I was very young, a long time before I listened to extreme metal music, intuitively disliked the Abrahamitic religions and the slave mentality it has brought. Made not for the wise and free individuals but for timorous conformists with an infantile relation to life and death. Simple obedience, blind faith and remission as the way to reach the highest goal rather than true and deep spiritual work and great achievements.
“I think it’s a sickness, a collective sickness. Like a mental virus which apply to the vulnerable points of weak men. I mean, why all this prattle of pray for forgiveness? Certainly there was political reasons for the eager proliferation of early Christianity. It has nothing to do with any deeper truth. To understand this one have to realize the order of the societies back then. What is the origin of Christianity? Why was this submissive enemy-loving philosophy mainly spread to the Roman Empire? Because the originators of Christianity and the Romans were in war against each other.
“It started almost exactly after the time of the great zealot uprising against the Romans and the Roman respondent siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the second temple. It was times of conflict and disturbance. Christianity was used as a weapon against Europe. So, why should whole the western world still revere this strange desert sect which eventually attacked all of our own cultures? What do we benefit from that? Nothing but mental restrictions, submissive self-loathing and absolute confusion, I think. All the churches, what are they if not symbols of mockery?
“I also think it repressively fetters the greatness of the mind when it close the door to darkness, which it condemns as sin, instead of experience all its extensive and revolutionary mysteries. Even though the strong individual may break free from these chains, there may be inherited subconscious knots that may limit and disturb one’s invisible journey. You know, 1000-1600 years leave an imprint on the world of man, collectively and of course even on an individual level. It’s unavoidable. So, the psycho-magical ritual, as burning a holy temple of the archetypal oppressor for instance, may if one is aware of this process help to dissolve those psychologically interfering knots and rearrange one’s shadow role and underlying self-image. To enlighten an old fire and bring it deep within. I do not invite anyone to anything but personally I think it can be positive to use extra-ordinary methods to reactivate the ancient hidden self-image of our pre-Abrahamitic ancestors within. However, if you want an ordinary and safe life, just return to your TV.”
With such lengthy answers to simple questions, I had to pry a little more on the philosphy and religious ideals of Vindkall, and as I had suspected, he is multidimensional in those areas. “Indeed, I’m not a Satanist in the LaVeyan sense. I don’t need any terms at all but shortly, I’m into the occult, so to speak. I think the modern man has walked in the wrong direction for a long time and I search for other paths. When I was younger I was, naturally, mostly into Nietzsche’s moral philosophy and later on turned into the conception of Plato. I’ve read most of the ‘historical philosophers’ and find many of them interesting. I’ve read a lot about the Sāṃkhya system, gnostic teachings, ancient Scandinavian philosophy and so on. There is always interesting to see red threads between traditions.” When asked about his reading list that is not philosophy, Vindkall prefers non-fiction, but doesn’t think in terms of favourites. “I often read the Edda parts. However, I’m an omnivore when it comes to literature.”
In 2007 Domgård‘s vocalist Illbrand committed suicide. I asked Vindkall about Illbrand’s death, and I found out that Illbrand talked about death as a close part of his philosophy, sometimes describing suicide as a potent ritual of death magic.
“He felt contempt for mankind and didn’t enjoy this world and he wanted it all to go down in fiery darkness. He was a cool guy and we were very close back then.”
I asked Vindkall about Domgård’s previous two albums, I Nifelhels skygd and Myrkviðr, and what he is most proud about these two albums, and what he would change about them today.
“There are some sound details on Myrkviðr which could be better but not worth mentioning. I enjoy the album in its wholeness as it is. The bewitching atmosphere through the album is strong, I think. I’m also proud of the music and lyrics from I Nifelhels Skygd, but sometimes I want to hear it with another sound which is not as dry, cavernous and small. It’s a very special sound production and some tracks works better than another. I also think we were a little bit too stressful during the recording process, but one learns from it. We follow no rules and maybe we will do new recordings with those tracks sometime. Time will tell.”
Domgård currently does not endorse any particular brands, but when asked about the gear they used for Ödelagt, Vindkall was very forthcoming. Guitars were handled with a Gibson Les Paul Studio, the bass a Washburn, and a set of Pearl Export drums were used. “Regarding amps, or sound in general, we’ve never had any rules or specific guidelines to be honest. More curiosity and openness. I think it’s tiresome when the ‘black metal sound’ becomes too homogeneous and we tend to experiment a lot in our own studio ‘Djävulstemplet’.” Two different interlinked Bugera amps were used on the new album, one as a master and one as a slave. “They were connected to one Orange speaker and one Fender speaker. I used four sm57’s for every guitar and put them in different angles to widen the possibilities to adjust the EQ in the mix.” The sm57 was also the microphone of choice for vocals, “Being the only stable preference.”
“Domgård have always used unique gear for every album and next time we will probably use different things. Nothing is too corny or cool, we use whatever comes in our way and then just twist and turn until it sounds raw enough. Working more with heart than brain, so to speak. The sound of Domgård should never be too clear but keep a mystic feeling, like walking in strange woods at night surrounded by intense and heavy fog, following a distant glow that almost disappears in the mist. The listeners shouldn’t have everything easily served but rather find some of the sonic art on their own.”
The way that Ödelagt has come to be is a rather interesting story. Some of the songs, or parts of songs, were originally worked on back in the 90’s, in the beginnings of Domgård, meaning everything was written before they recorded, with some details fixed in the jam room. “Some of the songs are older, most parts of ‘Svartdjupets Lockelse’ is from the 90’s. The outro part, ‘Ødhe Vi’ was recorded in Kalmar prison in 2001 and remixed in 2015. Some of the songs are newer. The tracks ‘Ödelagt’, ‘Töckenhöljt’, ‘Urblodets Trollmakt’ and ‘Grottkvinnans Hemlighet’ was first recorded in 2012 as an EP but it turned out to be this full-length album instead, which we’re pleased with.”
Lyrically the album is not a set of tired cliches of Satanism and antichristianity, but rather more truly Nordic themes, and even has a small concept within. “There is a red thread throughout the album even though each song also has its separate entity. But there are recurring subjects like witchcraft, seid and rune magic, the secret shadows of the subconscious, spiritual enlightenment and the deep journey within and through the visible realms to the darkness beyond. And the ulterior motif is Ragnarök.”
“The lyrics describe mostly ancient Scandinavian myths and metaphors; powerful symbols and keys to connect to what dwells under the surface. To reactivate the old longing ghost. Like sparks to ignite its potential fire.”
I pressed Vindkall on the most difficult song to write on Ödelagt, and the easiest to write, as well as his favourite song from the album.
“The most difficult song is hard to say actually. Mostly it flows naturally during the process of creation. It comes like a storm from the depth through the portal which is us. One can easily think that the more technical parts are the most difficult to write but I would say it’s at least as challenging to write strong and memorable riffs with few chords and tones. If you can make it very simple but still interesting it’s a fine composition.
“The easiest I would say the intro track, ‘Niþanvarþa’, because it only has one repeating melody.
“As for my favourite, one could ask, ‘what is your favourite mood?’. Both expression and appreciation depends on the mood, settings and atmosphere. It varies. When you’re in an evil mood in the woods under the fullmoon light I would say that ‘Svartdjupets Lockelse’, ‘I Geirröds Hall’ or ‘Sejdmannens Förbannelse’ are good choices. When in a more epic mood I would maybe prefer the title track, ‘Töckenhöljt’ or ‘Kynjagaldr’. When in a more dreamy and introspective mood I would definitely recommend ‘Förgånget’ which is almost like a non-official tribute to the old atmosphere of Burzum. Every track has its own atmosphere and value and there is also a moving dynamic within the songs I think.”
I questioned about how the band knows if and when a song is completely ready for recording, if it needs a certain feeling when playing it. “Exactly, it’s about a certain feeling. One just knows when it’s ready. However, starting with the basic foundation one can always do the detail touch afterwards.”
Finally, about writing in prison, I asked if it was easy to have access to instruments in Swedish prison, and if there was anything other than “Ødhe Vi” that has been unused on a release.
“In Europe they often use so called ‘carrots’ to make people behave in prison. If we don’t, they take it away,” was the reply. “I wrote more stuff in prison yes, but ‘Ødhe Vi’ is the first to be released. Maybe I will release other songs later. Only Skuld knows.”
Genre: Adult Contemporary, Coldwave, Goth
My first thought on seeing this promo in my inbox was to delete it. But, my curiosity got the better of me, unfortunately, and so I opened the email. What can I say? I’m a sucker for Christmas albums, with Johnny Cash, Elvis, and Frank Sinatra getting a lot of spins every December.
But man, this is fucking garbage. Yes, Tarja is incredibly talented. And yes, she is singing some of these songs in a style I particularly enjoy. Some of these songs remind me of stuff that would have come off of the Projekt Records label, and Projekt is one of the best labels ever for coldwave and goth. But there has always been something about Tarja I’ve never really liked; even her Nightwish albums are mostly garbage. Once Annette got into the band they really took off, as if Tarja was an elastic band holding the band back from flying at full speed. Once she left, the elastic snapped, and the biplane Nightwish were went into full jet mode.
There’s some high points, such as interesting production choices on these classics of the Christmas season, but ultimately it’s just a Christmas album for Hot Topic goths who can’t stop watching Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s slower moving, which does add an interesting atmosphere to the songs, especially the ones that are traditionally faster, such as “Deck the Halls” and “Feliz Navidad”. But ultimately, this is a complete waste of studio recording hours. The new song, “Together” is completely immemorable, and was one of the main reasons I wanted to check this album out. It’s something that you’d hear on an easy rock station, geared towards suburban soccer moms with black nail polish.
As a less important aside, I am also very disappointed in the cover art for this album. Yes, Christmas is cold. A lot of the music on this album is coldly produced and cold sounding. Tarja, however, is a gorgeous woman on top of her talent, and having this much Photoshop work to her face is just brutal. Whoever did the art is a jackass and should go back to horribly disfiguring women for fashion magazines and leave the airbrushing of musicians to qualified people.
In all, don’t bother wasting your time with this, unless you’re streaming it for free on YouTube or Bandcamp. And definitely don’t play this at a Christmas party, unless your guests are all fourteen years old and have a crush on Jack Skellington.