Interview with Bergsvriden
There is no band out there that gets as down and dirty as Sweden’s Bergsvriden. Need proof? Check out their latest album “Skogens Trolska Fasa” for a little taste of the insanity and darkness they create about as good as anyone out there. Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Trollmania jumped on these questions for us regarding the new album, the history of the band, the writing process and a few other tidbits…. check it out……
So far, so good
Congrats on your 3rd full length album “Skogens Trolska Fasa”….what has the feedback been so far regarding it?
“Thank you! So far, we are very happy with how people receive this album. They get the atmosphere, and the content exactly the way we meant to tell it. Many people yearn after the 90’s vibe of black metal, and from what I’m told, “Skogens Trolska Fasa” embraces that sentiment, making those people very happy. So far, so good!”
Could you give us a little history on the formation of the band and why you named it Bergsvriden?
“In the beginning Bergsvriden was not supposed to be a band. I just wrote one song with the intention of combining old school black metal with folk music in a way that hasn’t really been done before. Then I showed it to a few people, and it got such a good feedback that I felt I could take this project to the next level. I then wrote another song called “Vinterfader” and asked my dear friends Trollpung and Öltomten to help with more vocals and the bass. Yes, we have two vocalists, myself (Trollmania) and Trollpung (I have heard some people always have thought it was just one person with a very varied vocal). As for the name… Translating it seems an impossible task but let me try. It is a combination of the word “Berg”- a mountain, and “Vriden” – which means something like “twisted/grotesque/insane”. I get much of the inspiration from the art of Thodor Kittelesen, John Bauer and such, and in their paintings, you can often sense this kind of fear. You are in the forest after dark, and the shadows around you seem to take on weird shapes. You try to frantically rationalize what you’re seeing, and then it eats you haha. Or the very ground under your feet, the rocks, the stones, the moss, trees and roots all spin and groan and the mountain comes alive before you – that essentially is Bergsvriden.”
I translated the album title as “Troll Horror Forest”….is this a close translation? Why did you decide to name the album “Skogens Trolska Fasa”?
“Close enough. I guess the direct translation would be “The Forest of bewitching horror” and it fits perfectly with everything that a dark, Scandinavian forest stands for: mystery, danger, but also strength and might. Sadly, there is no translation (or at least I haven’t found one) for the word “väsen” which are all these Scandinavian folklore creatures, and they are key subjects of these songs. They live under the ground, lurk in the shadows, roam the forest and in most cases coming into contact with them spells trouble for a human being. One can almost feel their gazes and hear their laughs. They devise all kinds of mental traps and play tricks on our minds, or like Gluffasuggan, a hellish boar with a mane made of blades just run under you and… you can picture the rest haha.”
Your style has many elements of multitude styles……how would you describe your style? Is it too diverse to describe easily?
“To me this is “black folk metal”. Most of the riffs and melodies are inspired by the 90s black metal scene as well as our own, historic Swedish folk melodies. I am a bit surprised by the fact that it’s so hard to find such a combination out there. There is either just a hint of black metal within the folk, or a hint of folk within black metal, but I had a hard time finding them in more equal proportions anywhere so far. And that’s too bad because I think they have very symbiotic relation to each other. I mean most of the Scandinavian folk tales are filled with dread, and what better way to express dread than through black metal. So, in my opinion the term “black folk metal” would be the most on point here.”
I feel there is a lot of mood created with the tracks here…. is this just a byproduct of the music or do you write tracks with mood in mind?
“The mood is always there and it’s crucial. You could say that it fills most moments of a day. Even while doing everyday chores I don’t ever feel very far removed from all this. Writing music for Bergsvriden sort of feels like another basic life function to me, so it is difficult to think which actually comes first, the music or the mood. Most of the time they come simultaneously. Since the mood is always there, any music that comes out is always just means to express and convey that atmosphere.”
Not spelled out
How does the songwriting process work….is there subject/lyrics decided on first or do they come after music is composed?
“The process varies a lot, but usually the sequence goes: vague subject ideas, music, lyrics, then the album title. Of course, the best scenario is when we could all meet in the forest and soak up the atmosphere. But quite a lot of music writing is done in the kitchen or just about anywhere in between working and parenting duties. Since I have my own home studio, quite often a song can be recorded when it is just minutes old. This way the music usually comes before any lyrics. After that there is a lot of editing, any free moment, day and night.”
I have the suspicion that there is a definite “tongue in cheek” or not so serious/inside joke philosophy to Bergsvriden… am I right? Is it something that you keep relatively vague on purpose?
“You’re absolutely right on this one! There is a kind of a dark sense of humor in many of the tales and legends in Scandinavian folklore, and I think it’s important to maintain that spirit to keep things authentic. Although we chose to emphasize the more scary/horror aspects of it and add a dash of a dark grotesque on top. I guess we do keep it vague… Possibly it is due to the fact that while Bergsvriden is about all the above, it is just as much about the deep and serious emotions. Instead of serving it in a sort of a “spelled out” manner, we just combine one with the other. I can imagine how it can make someone wonder what the hell is actually going on in here… And I won’t state anything new by saying- people will find their own meanings and nuances which make the music enjoyable and personal for them.”
Are there specific bands that have a major influence on what you create in Bergsvriden? Are there other types of media (books, movies, etc) that impact what you do?
“Bergsvriden is influenced by a lot of different things. Bands like Finntroll, Trollfest, Otyg and Vintersorg, but also the bands that are most often described as the 90s black metal scene. Other than that, it is all sorts of things. I’ve mentioned before the art of Theodor Kittelesen, and the art and books of John Bauer, they have made a big impact on the music. Then we have old lullabies, folk tales, scary movies, the list goes on. Moomin (and here I mean the 90s version), and especially its genius soundtrack by Sumio Shiratori, have made immense impact on me and of course on Bergsvriden. Sometimes it is also good to go back to your childhood and remember how real all these fears and fascinations felt. Nature itself provides plenty of inspiration. And of course, all the life’s experiences, from really bad to really good, and the transition between them, while always keeping a bit of melancholy somewhere in the heart.”
How does your work in other musical projects potentially add to what happens in Bergsvriden or is there no crossing over into other musical endeavors?
“All three members of Bergsvriden, also play (or sing) together in the folk metal band Midvinterblot. That music though is written mostly by Öltomten (Bergsvriden’s basist), and I don’t compose there, only play the guitar. I would say other than the band members playing in both bands there is no connection at all. Midvinterblot with its slogan “folk n’ troll” has a focus on getting you to move your ass and join the trollish beer fest, while Bergsvriden is more about the horror, mystery and dark grotesque. Given the fact that Bergsvriden does not tour or even hold band practices, these bands do not stand in each other’s way much. If anything, it is fun and refreshing to switch from one mood to another, you get to kinda “reset your taste buds” if you know what I mean. I also have my own project Illdåd, and there of course you can sense similarities. But I haven’t been very active on that front recently.”
The tracks are in Swedish….. any consideration of English or would the songs lose a lot in translation by doing so?
“We gave it some thought, but I think the best we can offer is to translate the lyrics beneath the original Swedish text. I use a lot of idioms; it gets a bit poetic here and there. No way in hell am I able to do that in a foreign language. If we translate to English, I think both sides can be satisfied.”
I also think that the overall production helps in the vibe of the album(s)….is it difficult on some level to make it sound relatively low-fi with today’s technology? Is it an analog recording versus digital?
“No, I don’t think it is too difficult to achieve it through today’s technology. We do wanna kind of do more with less. We record everything in my home studio, and we don’t necessarily use the best ways to record. We focus more on the next steps; mixing and mastering to get the sound right. Whatever the modern technology is too good at capturing, you can basically set straight and fix with the 90s mood mostly afterwards. Just gotta mess with it a bit and get more creative at times.”
Has there been any discussion of live performances or will this strictly be studio based? What circumstances would have to happen to make a live performance a reality?
“Not the easiest question to answer… So, it happened, that through a bunch of circumstances, Öltomten found himself back in Bosnia, a while back. It isn’t clear at this point when he will be back. To me things are simple: there is no Bergsvriden without him. I mean as long as I breathe, I will continue making more music for Bergsvriden, but it is either all three of us, or none of us to take it out with some presence to the world. If we ever overcome that obstacle, then we “just” have to find more musicians I suppose and hope everyone’s busy schedules don’t overlap too badly.”
Any favorite music from 2019? Albums you are looking forward to in 2020?
“Mayhem’s “Daemon”, Trollfest’s “Norwegian Fairytales” Awaiting New Finntroll’s album!”
“Big thanks to all who help us spread the album. We are grateful for all the support. Stay tuned for more, for more is yet to come!”