Nyckelharpa talking on
Sweden’s Utmarken have returned in triumphant fashion with the release of their 2nd album entitled “Förfallstid”. Filled with powerful vocals, catchy riffs and nyckelharpa, “Förfallstid” treads into some new territory style wise from the debut of the year for us in 2016. Vocalist/nyckelharpist and killer musician Mathias Gyllengham has given us some responses regarding the new album, the stylistic changes, the writing and recording process and a few other things…… check it out….
Congrats on your new album “Förfallstid” which is about to be released…. have you gotten some response regarding it so far?
Thanks a lot, Jeff and Folk-metal.nl. As of this writing, which is before the release, it has only been heard by a select few. The response from that crowd has been very positive though.
Going back to the debut album, did you have some of the tracks for “Förfallstid” in progress and decided to save them for a 2nd release or is everything newer than the debut album?
I can only think of one little part, in one track, that I had in mind for the debut that ended up on a track in “Förfallstid”, but in another shape.
Did you already decide to somewhat change directions style wise after the last album? Were there things you may have wanted to do on the debut but decided they were too “risky”?
To be honest, my musical undertakings don’t follow a plan. I mean, of course I don’t do things purely at random, but there are a lot of external forces that are at play when it comes to these things, that affect the final outcome. The time period since I began trying to do something, well, I’m not sure if we should call it serious, but to do something with an intention of actually trying to use my capabilities to a higher degree, has been pretty chaotic. But one difference with respect to the debut is that with “Förfallstid” I have actually tried to follow my own path, and I think I managed to, although I’ve paid a high price for following my visions. There was never an intention of trying to take it into a specific direction though other than that I wanted to develop things a bit. But I want to stress that a lot of my creative activities are based on hunches, intuition, coincidence and visions/dreams I get.
As it seems you did most of the writing, performing and vocals for this album, how did you attack getting songs done….one at a time or bounce between the tracks?
When I think of the time when most of the work with the album was done (last summer) it is just a haze. Not that it was done under any other influence than the occasional beer, but I was already overworked when I started with it, but I just kept going. I’m not really sure what happened. All of a sudden it was there.
Did you have a lyrical or thematic concept for “Förfallstid” before you started putting songs together and if so, could you explain it
Yes and no. The word “Förfallstid”, can roughly be translated to “Time of decay”. It’s an old local word from this area representing a time period between winter and spring when the ice is too frail to walk, but still too thick fish from a boat. You cannot pull a timber sleigh out of the woods since the ground is not frozen, yet there is a lot of snow left. Too early to sow, too late to hunt… A pretty worthless time period, where people back in the days coud just hope for spring to arrive, and that their supplies would not run out meanwhile. It is a framing for some of the songs and a metaphor for… well a lot of things. All cultures have a build-up period, a peak, and a time of decay, before it is replaced by something new. It is the circle of life. In times of decay and distress there is a lot of uncertainty and turmoil, and ordinary people do what people have always done throughout humanity. They try to survive. That which doesn’t want to live dies. I’m not putting any value in it, it’s merely a fundamental law of nature. This was not a very specific answer to the question, but thoughts that belong to the core framework and can be noticed all around in the final outcome. But it’s not thematic per se. It is a framing I was given.
Is it easier to do things on your own for the most part and keep it to your idea of what it is meant to be? How do you think working with others on these tracks may have changed their direction/style/sound?
Difficult question… I think if I had given in to the external forces on this album as well instead of following my own vision, it would have been simpler and faster. More power metal, much less folk. The good thing with working on your own is that you can follow your ideas. The bad thing is that you’re all alone with them, and you are solely responsible if it turns out to be crap.
Stylistically you are hard to pin down as far as a category or genre… is it better to be so hard to put into group or style? Do you feel that my comparison to 70’s progressive rock bands is a reasonable one?
I think it is a disadvantage to be difficult to put in a genre, but I don’t care much about it. I think Utmarken has a certain style, a certain sound that is easy to recognize it, without making any claims to be original or unique. I’ve never been into bands like f.ex. Jethro Tull or Genesis, but I’ve had an intense Zappa period. You mentioned Zeppelin and Rainbow. Well, they, like many of the other classic hard rock bands are an important part of my musical history and that comes through of course.
The Nyckelharpa (keyed fiddle) is still a huge part of your sound…..what did you want to do differently with it this time around? Is the temptation there to leave it out and see how the songs would turn out without it?
I’m not sure I wanted to do anything differently with it this time. Does it sound different? I’m a bit better at playing it, so I could do some other things this time. Or, perhaps I should put it like this; since I’m a bit better at playing the nyckelharpa could play ME into other realms this time. I don’t think there will be an Utmarken without nyckelharpa, but I see that the nyckelharpa is being picked up even outside the folk metal circle, like it’s a cool toy, so, hmm… maybe it’s time to head into new territories? We’ll see. There are many possible ways forward. But my personal chapter with the nyckelharpa is far from over even if it would disappear from Utmarken.
Your vocals have never sounded better in both the primary and backing vocals…..is that the most important part of the tracks and requires the most recording and reworking to get it right?
I think they’re very important, but I haven’t spent that much time on them on “Förfallstid”. There are quite a few parts I should have redone, but when I do they usually lose energy. The vocal parts are best when they come naturally, when the feeling is right. That’s why I often stick to pretty early recordings even if there are errors in them. I actually spent more time on the vocals on the debut album, to no avail…
I see there are some guest appearances here including our friends Nash and Andreas from the epic Byrdi…. who else appears on the album and what parts do they play? Did you write parts specific for each performer or did everyone do what they felt was appropriate?
The parts weren’t written specifically. Nash and Andreas really liked Vintervind, and their parts fitted the Byrdi atmosphere I think. Guitar solos on “Lidandets väg” and “Ifrån byn”… well Jörgen Wikberg is much more than a guest musician. He’s been with Utmarken from the start and has a special position. And he brought in his cousin David on a part. David is part of the spirit in this in some weird way (which calls for sneaking in a “tjölla” here! Right, David?). Helena, who does these extremely beautiful fluttering vocals in the end of Vårdröm, is a friend of a friend (who was actually one of the driving forces that drew me back into music again, but that is another strange story). The part with her vocals in “Vårdröm” is one of my favourite parts on the album. Then there is also a Robert Jonsson who came in so late that he didn’t get into the booklet, with vocals on “Lidandets Väg”, and “Mitt Norrland”. He has a different voice than me, which fills things out nicely.
The album was mastered at Kalthallen Studios….. how did this come about?
I got in contact with Byrdi and Myrkgrav, who both spoke well of Kalthallen (Markus). I was pretty unhappy about my own “mastering” for the debut, I heard his results on their work, so I contacted him. Working with Markus was one of the bright moments in an otherwise pretty dark creation process, so this was not the last time, if up to me. I also want to specifically mention Thomas, who did the cover layout, as another positive force to this project. Their efforts made a big difference.
What are the future live plans for Utmarken and do you have a solidified live line up now?
There is a live Utmarken, busy rehearsing, that I hope you will know more about very soon. We will play on the Totsåsrock festival in Norway, and probably some local gig. If all turns out well (I think it will) I hope for more live gigs. One primary goal with this album was to get enough material to do a whole live show, and, well, now there is. But when it comes to playing live, the entire project becomes dependent on so many other forces. You know, behind the scenes, there has actually been discussions about touring in Europe, on more than one occasion, but for different reasons everything has always fallen apart. Since I’ve rolled with this thing this far I will of course do what I can to get us out there, but it is also in the hands of many others. We’ll have to see what the gods have in store.
Do you have some news to share on your other project Norrsinnt? What (for those that don’t know) are the primary differences between the two?
Norrsinnt has always been an outlet where I have just let things out without much thought. I usually say that both Utmarken and Norrsinnt have the same foundation, but Norrsinnt is the esoteric expression, while Utmarken is the exoteric. Lately, I’ve found myself drawn to the esoteric. I’m planning to do a, in my view, pretty spectacular Norrsinnt release hopefully early this autumn. It will only be one (quite long) track, and I would describe it as if there was ever such a thing as a Scandinavian folk metal musical this track would be the final encore. It builds on everything I’ve done so far but the external forces, the Gods, have been playing a bit, with the result that things will be taken to a whole new level. I have to focus on the ongoing Utmarken-activities first, but I must confess I’m really excited about this thing. It has the potential to become something very powerful.
Favorite albums from 2016 or 2017 so far?
Since this is Folk-metal.nl I’ll stay in that context and say that I have been quite fond of Byrdi’s Urkraft, Myrkgrav’s “Takk og farvel; tida er blitt ei annen” and Trolldom by Fejd (although it is a bit different sound wise than their previous albums).
Thanks for letting me throw my thoughts around like this. I’m very glad you liked the album. There were moments when I decided to scrap it completely, but didn’t and now it looks like I’ve done something good so even though I’m hesitant to say it was worth the effort at least it has not been for nothing.