Covid be dammed, metal is coming out swinging and fighting this pandemic with music of epic proportions. Norway’s heavy hitters, Einherjer, have created a headbanging, fist pumping, metal extravaganza, with their 8th album, North Star. Get ready to go on a Norse Mythology journey with incredible guitar solos and a dark soundscape to fit the storytelling. I am sure Odin would approve of this Nordic black/folk metal craft.
Thor’s hammer came down in 1993, and Viking metal band, Einherjer thrashed their way through Norway and then the world. Taking a temporary break in 2004, they were reborn in 2008 and haven’t stopped the thunder since. Frode Glesnes (vocals, guitar, bass), Gerhard Storesund (drums, keys), Ole Sonstabo (lead guitar), and the newly added Tom Enge (guitar, backing vocals) have busted out of 2020 and slayed 2021 with an album that is sure to be at the top of many playlists. Continuing on the Norse theme, yet adding personal elements, Glesnes has adapted his lyrics to fit many areas, while holding onto the Einherjer lyrical and compositional elements.
Glensnes was wonderful to take some time with Metal Nation to discuss the new album.
It’s been 25 years since you have been with Napalm Records.
“Yeah, it doesn’t seem that long but, yes it has been 25 years. I don’t know where those years have gone, *laughs* but here we are.”
Time is a strange thing. It will feel like something happened last year and really it has been many years.
“Exactly, especially when you have record of what you have been doing the last 25 years in terms of albums and tours and whatever. Then you start looking back on stuff and think, ‘Oh fuck, is that 20 years already?’, it’s just insane. You just have to go with it, there is nothing you can do really *laughs*.”
Did you think you would still be doing music this much later in the game?
“We don’t think like that. We don’t really plan ahead of what I’m going to do in 20 years. *laughs* So you just take whatever arrives, you know, do this album, then tour, then okay we will start writing some songs for the next album. Then suddenly you are 25 years into it and it’s like, ‘Well ok!’”
*Laughs* That’s great though! You guys are clearly hard workers, with the 8th album, North Star, coming out in a couple of weeks.
“Yeah, it is closing in! I wouldn’t exactly call us hard workers *laughs* I mean, releasing 8 albums in 25 years. I know bands that are working much harder than we do, but it is our 8th if you don’t count re-recording stuff we have done. Even after so many years, it is still exciting releasing an album. That is the part I really love about this, is the excitement you get with every new thing you do. It is just like the first album you release because you have been really working hard with it and you want to present this to the people, then when the release date is closing in, you get kind of excited. It’s cool to still have that love for the thing you do.”
Yes and very important. If you are not loving what you are doing, that is when you throw in the towel right?
So far you have released, “The Blood and the Iron” as well as “Stars”, how has the response been?
“Really really good. Both videos are cool videos and the songs, of course, I really like, and it shows the kind of diversity you will find on this album. I am really happy and kind of overwhelmed with the feedback. That is the cool thing about doing a lot of interviews, you get to talk to the people who actually mean something about this stuff and it’s really cool to get the feedback from you.”
I agree. I think the two are showing the diversity of the album. Will you be releasing a third song before the album comes out?
“Yes, ‘West Coast Groove’, which we will follow up with a video as well. It will be released on the 24th, two days before the album.”
Ok cool. I am really digging all the guitar solos, and I especially enjoy the last song on the album “Chasing the Serpent”. It is such a different sound than the rest of the record yet it flows really well with the tracks. Is that a keyboard playing behind the guitars?
“There are probably some keys there. I honestly don’t remember what I did, but yeah that last song is a bit different. I worked and reworked that one a few times, because I didn’t get the proper feel I was looking for, so I tried to do different things and it suddenly it came together.”
It is a great song, and you do a different vocal style on it as well, which again you wouldn’t expect it to flow as well as it does. Sometimes some of the best songs are toward the end of albums and not everyone has the attention span to make it to the end of an album anymore. Hopefully people will listen all the way through this entire record. Thankfully vinyl records have come back to help with this.
“Yeah, people should have never stopped doing that because we are in our best age, so we are used to the album format. When we are planning stuff, we are always looking at the album format. I see with many kids today, they don’t really relate to that. I think you lose kind of the whole point of it if you don’t listen to the whole album. Then again that is just how I feel coming from my generation, being brought up with vinyls. When we set the track list, it’s side A and side B, that is just how it is in my head. When I finish the song, I will think, ‘Alright, this song feels like a last song on side A.”
That’s cool that you think about it that way. Yeah and I think that when you guys put it in a particular order the tracks go in, it is set a specific way for a reason, so when people are hopping around, they are missing the whole experience.
“Yeah, I think so. Of course you have an initial idea of how it will be with the tracks and everything and we will change that a couple of times in the process. Also, traditionally, bands have chosen singles maybe because they are songs that are easy to understand or easy to get into. Maybe even the better songs are not that accessible and may be placed, like you said, later in the album, maybe on the B side, toward the end. If you miss those songs, you probably miss the best stuff that the band is doing. Which is shameful really.”
I agree, I think there is many strong finishes on a lot of albums. So being from that generation of growing up on vinyl records, has it been exciting to see your albums on vinyl now?
“Absolutely! We went through the whole 90’s more or less without stuff being released on vinyls, some were, but very very limited quantities, and then usually the prices on those were insane. So I think it is cool. I do support all kinds of streaming and all that stuff, that’s cool, it makes music accessible to everyone, but when I grew up, we were reading magazines and would sometimes look at the mail order ads and you would see a cover of an album that you really wanted to hear. Then four to six months later, maybe you got to hear that album. Today you have all the music in the world just a few clicks away. That would have fucking blown my mind if I even had that thought when I was a kid.”
It is crazy how much it has changed and there’s been pros and cons to it all as well of course.
“Yeah, absolutely. You can’t really do anything about it so you just have to embrace it and take it for what it is.”
And try to get creative and figure out the best ways to make a living since it is tricky financially these days especially when 2020 hit and the pandemic messed up touring.
“Absolutely, because earlier bands went on tour to promote an album but today you have to release an album to promote a tour because there is no money in the album, only touring. Yeah 2020 kind of fucked everyone over. We will just have to see what happens. I think this will take some time.”
Unfortunately I agree, but I am very thankful music is coming out during this time for us. Not only are we struggling as listeners, but musicians are definitely struggling in a lot of different ways.
“Absolutely, and that is also something that we have to think about. When the tours were cancelled we had to get together and talk about whether we were going to wait for the world to balance out or what are we doing to do? We just went for it, we decided we had to do this, because we don’t know how long this will go on and we will also continue writing music so we don’t want to end up releasing two albums in 8 months, there is no point.”
It is tough to navigate. So are you guys planning on doing an online live show?
“No. *laughs* Honestly, and this is my personal take, I don’t care that what I’m seeing on my screen is live and it is actually happening somewhere at that exact time. I don’t care. For me it is just the same as looking at a YouTube video with an added kind of awkwardness because there is no people there. So no, we will not do that *laughs*. I do understand that many bands have to do this, and I’ve seen some of it. Some productions are good some are *deep sigh* horrible, a lot of them are in between. If you have to do it, alright, go for it, if you don’t have to do it, fuck it. It looks awkward when you are playing live in front of no one, trying to….”
Involve a crowd that doesn’t exist?
*We both laughed pretty hard throughout this topic*
“Exactly. Actually where we live here now, we are still allowed to have concerts for 200 people if you have a seated venue, and we do have that. I am a stage manager at a seated venue so we are actually having a release party on the 26th in front of 200 people. So that will be our first gig in a year, it will be awesome. I am really crossing my fingers that the situation will be the same by then because you never know.”
That is wonderful, not only for you guys, but the crowd as well to have some kind of normalcy.
“The regular clubs are closed because they don’t want standing or even loose chairs are not allowed. It has to be arena type of seats that are drilled to the floor. You must not be able to move seats, but it is still better than nothing.”
I am curious of how that is going to go because with metal comes moshing, so if they are not able to do that and have to stand there at their chairs, that will be interesting.
“Yes. We have played this venue before and we have played seated venues before, even in the U.S., it is doable, but it also has this added awkwardness, but not as bad as playing for no one at all *laughs*.”
*Laughs* Right it is a step up from that.
“It is. It is kind of an in between. *laughs*”
Outside of music, what have you been doing during the pandemic since you are unable to tour?
“I had been home tutoring kindergarten for weeks and weeks so that will drive you insane. I was really happy when school opened back up again so then I could mentally balance myself out again and go back into the studio and actually be creative. I think that was the main reason why everything got delayed for months. I was home all day with the kids and I was totally drained and it was impossible for me to do work in the studio, this went on for 8 weeks or something like that, but then after that it was back in the studio and finish the album. All the music was written prior to the pandemic and we had recorded the drums. Then came mid March and the close down and shit and after that I could continue in the studio. I do record most of the stuff by myself, guitars, bass, vocals, so I could keep myself busy for quite some time. I also mix the album, so it was a good summer and also fall time, but it was the loneliest recording I’ve ever done but we still kind of managed to get a good vibe. Ole recorded most of his guitar solos at his home so I just reamped them here.”
Do you write your lyrics last?
“Yes really last. I normally do lyrics while mixing and while recording the vocals. It is really really toward the end of everything. That is how I have been doing it the last couple of albums, it is what works for me so I don’t want to change it.”
Your lyrics are all related to Norse legends, it has been the consistent element in your lyrics, why did you decide to go this route?
“Where we live is probably the main reason why we went for that kind of stuff. In the early 90’s when black metal happened, there were a lot of great bands there, but most of them had this kind of satanic imagery going and that was not for us at all. So we needed something else and all of use felt the feeling there is to Norse Mythology, that was kind of the perfect thing to put in metal. When I finally heard Bathory; Twilight to the Gods and Hammerheart, I was totally floored. This was so perfect, it was as good as it gets. Those two albums are probably a direct reason for our whole existence. I cannot emphasize enough how important they are and still is. I still get chills when I put them on. With my lyrics, as of 2011 with the Norron album, I have been writing lyrics in a completely different way, they are now way more personal but still wrapped in a Norse clothing. I just use the metaphors a little differently and wrap my stuff into it, so the lyrics are way deeper and way more proper. I also wrote these ones in English, which I hadn’t done in 10 or 12 years and it felt good. There were three from the last album in English and I just kind of started this one where I left off with that one. Maybe the next album we will do some songs in Norwegian again but I don’t know. The sound of it is a bit different.”
You do have a philosophical underpinning to your lyrics that I am not sure how well they would translate from language to language, but are done very well in English. You can get a lot out of them.
“Yeah I think so. I can’t speak for what other people get out of the lyrics but I do think there are a lot of things that can be useful for anyone.”
*Frode talked about the importance of people to know English to have the ability to talk to anyone outside of the Norwegian borders. Also discussed much about Norse Mythology*
What is the best way people can support you right now?
“Right now I think the best way to support not just us, but any band out there, the whole industry is suffering a serious blow. If there is a band out there you admire just go to their website and buy some merch directly from the band. I think that is the best way to support any band you like. If there was a time bands really need the support from the fans, it’s now. Maybe they will still be there when the smoke clears.”