Nornagesta keeps the candle burning

By: Dorien

Nornagesta has it’s roots in the Kennemer, what I like since folk-metal from my region of the Netherlands is quite rare. Although they exist already for a few years, we haven’t heard much of them. Time to change that and have an interview. I received a very enthusiastic response and we were spontaneously invited to a barbecue. Below you can read the interview with Joas, Ron, David en Jenny.

Introduce yourself and tell us how Nornagesta is formed.
So, we are Nornagesta, a folk metal band from near Haarlem. The band has it’s origin in the band Ron and Joas started with Laura. There were already plans for a band but they were never realized. Once it became more seriously and we searched for a guitarist, which was David. David immediately began writing songs. Laura was actually the central person in the band but decided to leave and do other things. With the result that a new bass player was needed. And Jenny proved to be a good bass player. That is how the line-up of today was realized. We’re now taling about the year in which the first demo was released. We could not practice for a long time and since we got quite bored we recorded a demo, that was around the summer of 2008. It took a long time before this demo was finished and there was also a long time between our first and second gig. The first one was in 2008 and the second one in 2010.

Well, that explains why we haven’t heard much of you.
True, we do not have had so many gigs. Nornagesta exists for three years now but it lacks a bit of contacts in this world. The best thing to do is form a package with other bands and offer this to venues. Unfortunately the other bands do not really live close to us and it is therefore difficult to offer something local. We are almost the only one in Noord-Holland.
In addition, we don’t have a complete equipment and unfortunately, besides Jenny, no driver’s license. Of course this doesn’t really help either.
But.. we may not have had so many gigs, we have already performed abroad, in Belgium. And also already in Friesland and Tilburg, so we are on our way!

What does the name Nornagesta mean and why did you choose this name?
We have searched for a really long time in old books for a nice name and finally we found the name Nornagesta.
This name comes from a store in ancient Norse mythology. There are three Norns, also called weavers of fate, and at the birth of a person they give him/her a spell.
When Nornagesta was born, the first two Norns gave him a spell which was pretty good, like having a good life. Unfortunately, the third was a bit of a bitch and cursed Nornagesta. She gave him a candle and spoke the curse that if the candle had burned, he would die. The two other Norns quickly blew out the candle with the result that Nornagesta was immortal as long as he kept the candle with him.
Nornagesta became one of the most famous bards of his time and was also a valiant warrior. He lived for centuries, until Norway got it’s first Christian king, Olaf Tryggvason. The legend tells that Nornagesta was requested for the king. Olaf converted all his followers under pressure and Nornagesta became a Christian too, even though he already believed in ancient gods for centuries. To prove that he actually had renounced his former faith, Olaf told him to burn te candle. Nornagesta obeyed and died. Dispite his conversion, he still believed in the old gods.

A sad but interesting story. Your list of influences include Týr, Moonsorrow and Turisas, which in itself is already a list with variation. But then you also mention Strapping Young Lad. How do you add all these influences in your music?
We all have a pretty broad taste in music. The list on our Facebook page contains personal influences. Ron is a SYL fan and when he writes songs, there will be an influence of that. But most important are actually David’s influences, as he writes most of the songs. All personal influences are combined to common ideas and so many different elements can be heard in our music.

Besides influences every band tries to produce its own sound. How would you describe your sound?
For the Rob Acda award we described our music as Melodic Death with Folk influences. We do not focus too much on the musical part of folk songs althoud David will always try to give a song a folk element. But that really depends on your definition of folk metal. This can be with traditional instruments or just in the lyrics. [Here follows a long discussion about the definition of folk metal with the conclusion that this will remain undefined.]
But then our own sound. We try to play a bit more technical that most bands. Progressive and melody driven midtempo. The sound Týr used to have, before they threw that completely overboard. What is easy to understand because it is difficult to play live. That only works if you know the music very well. Often those albums are more listen-albums that albums to play live.

And where do you find inspiration for the lyrics?
There is a theory that says that all good songs ever written are about sex..
But actually we get it mainly from old stories and books. For example Saltus Teutobergiensis. This song is about one of the greatest military defeats in the Roman empire. Somewhere in the Teutoburg Forest was a little valley where to Romans marched quietly along until suddenly all Germans came out of the trees and killed the Romans.
We don’t have a specific theme or concept. That’s interesting, but things must be put well together. Those are ideas for after the next demo. At this moment we have lots of flares and many different ideas.
Something that also inspires us are series. When you read a phrase that sounds really cool and make a song around it. Not that you put the whole text in it but often there are some interesting phrases in it. Like Song of Ice and Fire or a serie on Discovery.

Here in the Kennemerland and in the Zaanstreek also great battles have been fought. Is that interesting for you?
We certainly have thought about it. There has been a sort of civil war between Castle Assumburg and Castle Marquette but that was part of the Hoekse and Kabeljauwse twist (Hook and Cod quarrel). Try to write a metal song with such a title…
Haarlem is of Germanic origin and they have also been in Heemskerk. Even in Roman times there were already battles here. In Velsen there used to be a big fortress destroyed by the Frisians.
And then there were also quarrels between Kennemers, Counts of Holland and West-Frisians who liked to kill each other. But then we’re talking again about the 11th/12th/13th/14th century. So far we haven’t written a song about that but who know’s?
What is also a difficulty, is that we think that if you dive into history in your lyrics, the melodies should fit perfectly with the stories. But for now that’s not the direction we have in mind.

Are there plans for a new demo?
We’ve made some pre-recordings for the new demo. These are songs that we already play live and are quite old, but we finally record.
The previous demo was more a try-out of how we could record and release everything on our own. We just recorded the songs and did not really thought well of it. For example, the speed of playing live and during recording really differs. A Bitter Return is played very slow on the demo while live we play it much faster. We had not thought about how the songs really should sound. The whole picture is not really bad, but it could have been a lot better and that is what we’re going to try with this demo.

What do you prefer, Dutch or English?
It does not really matter to us. We sometimes try to write Dutch. But it’s not the case Dutch is so much closer to us. English growls better. Dutch has sounds that make you stumble, in English you can blend to fit everything together, then you don’t have a break between your words.
The singer of Blof, as an example, he sings in Dutch but does that in the English, blending way. If you stuck the words together, its easier to sing. If you speak Dutch, you stop the airflow at a T. If you are a growler and you stop your flow makes it really difficult to continue growling because you can not hold the tension. Actually is singing, regarless of the pronounciation, a lot easier due to the air flow.
Lyrically speaking, in terms of writing, we find it not more difficult to express in English then in Dutch. Both languages have their own vocabulary. Dutch has beautiful words, but generally does not pass over the meaning you try with a song.
There are bands with beautiful Dutch texts but people like Nick and Simon make us have to cry.. Nevertheless, we try to do as much writing as possible in Dutch, because in the end we are a Dutch folk-metal band.

Is there anything else you want to say to fans / readers?
We like friends on Facebook. Listen our songs, come to our gigs. And if you know some nice venues let us know.
Also to all the bands from the rest of the country who want to form a package.
The biggest problem with the folk metal scene is that it’s all the same. You hear little originality. Fans may think, this is yet another. But we are a rough diamond. Judgment until you have listened. It’s very cliché to say that you have a different sound.
You know what, we are not different, we are the same!

Thanks for the interview! And to all the other bands, we definitely do not mind doing interviews while barbecuing. :)