At the certain peak of his exploration of the great frozen wastes of the Earth’s polar regions famous Norwegian explorer Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen would spend two years in a competition of science, and national pride, as his five man expedition became the first to reach the geographic South Pole in 1911. The race for this conquest was won with admirable preparation and developed expertise in stark contrast to their British counterparts who remain dead and frozen flesh amidst glacier and ice. Just over one hundred years, and a few days, ago Amundsen would muse over the exodus of his teams discovery in lament of the navigational beacons, guides that would sustain them through the desert of frost they left behind. “Glad as we were to leave it behind, I cannot deny that it was with a certain feeling of melancholy that we saw it vanish. We had grown so fond of our beacons, and whenever we met them we greeted them as old friends. Many and great were the services these silent watchers did us on our long and lonely way.”
Though you might feel it is a stretch, depending on perspective and life experience, this mixture of relief and a yearning appreciation aptly sums up my feelings on the old, rotting greats of death metal which would be but dead buoys erased in a sea of modernist nonsense if not for preservationists, enthusiasts and truly covetous fandom. When new projects revive, expound and exhort auld ancient bloodlines it perks my entire being; In discovering Desolation Realm through word of mouth the gift of their music poured into my self as a great seeping assault of shadowy blasts that would instantly scrape away years of grime left by the inadequacies of typical ‘retro’ death expression. Therein lies genuine rotten art, pruned corridors of stone-crawling sightless creature hidden from the wastelands of life, and in an attempt to study and explore this world I reached out to the Oslo, Norway based musicians with a handful of questions about death metal, riffs, methodology and intent. With grateful excitement and doubled personal fandom, I present the resulting interview with vocalist/bassist Erlend with full input from the rest of the band.
GRIZZLY BUTTS: Historically speaking, Norway is portrayed as a desert for death metal but are these old and dead ideas?
DESOLATION REALM: Death Metal is perhaps not the most popular genre in Norway, but there’s quite a few cool bands here, especially if you dig a little deeper. “A desert for death metal” might be a bit harsh, but certainly there aren’t a lot of death metal bands, that’s true. We aren’t the best to keep up with new bands and projects to be honest. (There’s a much better climate for death metal in Norway now than during the black metal boom of the 90’s, that’s for sure.)
From the outside looking in it appears that death metal is thriving in certain parts of Norway. Is there an established ‘scene’ in Oslo today?
I guess you can say there’s a small death metal scene where everybody knows each other, but mostly it’s just one collective general metal scene, not particularly death metal. The regular metalhead seems more omnivorous and not as focused on a particular sub-genre nowadays.
Is there solid support and venue(s) for new and growing bands?
There’s no shortage of venues and gigs with a generally good attendance, at least here in Oslo, both club scenes and larger venues. Most bands who wants to play live are able to do so regularly.
How did the project [Desolation Realm] come about?
Three of us played together in a band called Abominat from 2002-2008. We played some live gigs and released a couple of demos/EP’s. The foundation for Desolation Realm rose from the ashes of that band you could say, with a common vision that we wanted to take a new direction with our music.
What came first with Desolation Realm, the songs or the band itself?
It started with just riffs and a general idea or musical direction, which again turned into full songs. The band name and lyrics came after the music was written.
For this EP were the songs written and developed democratically or is there a clear leader in forming the band’s vision?
Dag and Lian has written the riffs, but the arrangement process has been somewhat democratic, as we all share the same vision for the music.
Tell me a bit about the songwriting and recording process.
A song usually starts with a bundle of riffs, which are later arranged by the band. Several of the songs went through multiple of re-arrangements before we were satisfied. The demo/EP was recorded at the ‘Crypts of Decay’, our rehearsal space. It was mostly recorded on a 2 channel Tandberg tape-deck from the 70’s, and it was mixed by Ola.
Did the patterns come together through jamming together or was everything mapped out ahead of time?
There was a bit of both. Mostly mapped out ahead of time, but Ola also added a bit of flair during jamming and writing sessions.
The surreal character of the demo builds a dynamic of alternating ominous atmosphere and forceful brutality. Did you enter the studio with atmospheric goals or references?
We had some general ideas, but these were later improved upon by adding and tweaking lead guitars and stuff during the actual recording of the songs. You could say it turned out ‘more atmospheric’ that actually planned, and we intend to do more of that in the future.
Is this a self-produced / engineered recording?
Yes. We’ve done everything ourselves.
Unless I am overlooking something more subtle the influences on this demo seem to come from Timeghoul, Disembowelment and maybe earlier Execration in terms of drum patterns and arrangements?
There’s no denying the obvious Timeghoul influence. We’d like to mention Infester, the first Immolation album, as well as the first Cryptopsy album as direct inspiration sources. Among others, of course.
Is there a goal of ‘old school’ feeling atmospheric death metal, or just the organic result?
It’s a definitive goal and ideal for us. Everything from the band name, the chosen cover artwork and the sound were deliberate choices to create this ‘old school’ and ‘atmospheric’ vibe.
Does ancient death metal drive your interest in creating death music, or the modern equivalents (such as Blood Incantation, etc.)?
We’re mostly interested in ancient stuff. The newer bands we like does often follow this ideal as well.
Is there a central lyrical theme or narrative on ‘Desolation Realm’?
Yes. Erlend took both the ambiance and band name to heart when writing the lyrics. It mostly revolves around exploration, the struggle for survival and ultimately, death, in desolate realms, so to speak. He has written more elaborate lyrics for a potential future release which will further expand upon this subject matter, and the songs will most likely be conceptually linked to each other.
Is the band actively seeking label representation?
Not really. We’ve not actively promoted ourselves, other than uploading our release to Bandcamp.
You would fit quite well on labels like Edged Circle, Blood Harvest, or Me Saco Un Ojo. Or is a ‘do it yourself’ ethic more sensible for the time being?
We’ve been DIY the entire time, but have gotten some interest from relevant labels, which is flattering given that we operate in a narrow niche within the sub-genre. We might do something with a good label some time in the future. The recording process will forever be DIY, and we will probably never rent a “professional” studio for our recordings.
Is a physical release of ‘Desolation Realm’ (Tape, 12″, CD, etc.) in the works?
We have released a tape on Snake Oil Kassettforlag recently, but it is already sold out. We have currently no plans of a re-press. Maybe a vinyl version some time later, who knows.
What is upcoming for the project? Live shows, tours, more songwriting?
More songwriting, first and foremost. We’re keen on putting out new music. Maybe a local live show, but absolutely no touring plans as of now.
Plans for more material?
Yes, we have plans. We’d like to expand on the subject matter with more brutal and more atmospheric parts, as well as a more defined lyrical theme, conceptually.
Other local projects folks should check out/support as well?
Other than the new Obliteration and Black Viper records, which should be fairly known by now, check out Ola‘s death metal solo project, Flesh Torment. Also, the drummer of Obliteration, and our logo designer’s, solo project, Void Eater.
|[Bandcamp: Flesh Torment!]||[Bandcamp: Void Eater!]||[Bandcamp: Obliteration!]||[Bandcamp: Black Viper!]|
Thanks for your time and insight.
Thank you for the support, and a big thanks to everyone who has bought or listened to our release!
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