Dark Fortress have sculpted a new masterpiece of black metal drenched with the blood squeezed from a death metal shroud. Spectres From The Old World is a significant piece of work and surely due a lot of attention from the metal community if there is any justice left on this plague-ridden rock.
The band was just forced to cancel release shows due to Covid-19 in March but we are pleased to publish at last a recent conversation with musical genius Morean (also of Alkaloid and Noneuclid renown) about the new record to help lift some of the sting or perhaps steer people towards this great 2020 Century Media release if they were unaware. (Buy merch HERE)!
MYE. Spectres from the Old World is an intense and powerful album, highly anticipated by fans. I loved the album title. Do you think we are always haunted by the past or sometimes we actually forget it too quickly and repeat tragic things? It is also good to know where things come from, like musical styles. Some older bands like
yours and also God Dethroned come to mind as having great new music this year, still fighting for the dark metal legacy!
Morean: As a species, that’s definitely true. Just look around you and what mankind is discussing right now. I remember that at the turn of the century, I felt like the human race might be at the eve of an evolutionary quantum leap. Now, twenty years later, it’s obvious that the monkey part of us that throws feces at the monkeys in the other tree is not actually that far in the past. At the same time, we can transform the Earth into one giant telescope to take pictures of black holes, land probes on comets, genetically engineer organisms and so on. I think our technical evolution is so far ahead of our mental and emotional evolution that it’s still a big question if progress will have the upper hand in the near future, or if we just go to some dystopian Mad Max-like society, only postponing its last degenerate breath. Time will tell, but we’re far from being able to relax about it. The “old world” of this album is something else entirely though; it refers to the universe of the previous album, where the protagonist has transformed into a being of pure light and reincarnates here as the sentient fabric of a newborn cosmos, in great agony. It’s black metal after all.
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MYE: Ahh, I see. And yes, I agree that it feels like Mad Max a lot lately. Your song “Coalescence” really establishes a strong mood of how there is forceful black metal here that also sounds grandiose with good modern production yet no sacrifice of the dark energy. I love the solo in the song actually adds to the mood and isn’t like cock rock thrown on a black metal song, haha. It actually made me see more grim images in my mind! How does it feel to have this record done?
Morean: Thanks! It’s always a huge relief and celebration when Santura sends the final mixes around after all those months of working on it. Under his talented hands, music tends to sound better than it is sometimes, which is one of the great privileges of having the producer and engineer in the band. I also have to say that with this album, it has been more difficult than it already was in the past to find common grounds between all the members. Besides the old logistics monster, that is one of the reasons it took longer than before to make the album this time around. At the end, we’re very very happy with the result, though. It’s always hugely important to us that a new album doesn’t fall behind older ones in quality. It would be impossible for me to say which album is better than the other. I did leave the studio knowing we offered the best we were capable of in that moment. We might have different opinions and tastes in the band by now, but our pride and history demand that we give it everything every time. We can confidently say we did again this time around.
MYE: How does it feel to be a part of California Deathfest 2020 with bands like
Aborted and Skeletal Remains? You are like the main band repping black metal at
the event, so that is cool you can make even more of an impression. (Note: This question was asked before the Covid-19 situation, so I am not sure this is still happening but wanted to include the answer).
Morean: It would be a dream come true to Dark Fortress if these gigs in the US finally worked out for us after more than a quarter century of existence. Unfortunately, it always depends on the bloody visa situation. Our application has been lying at the US embassy for months now already. It’s getting so hard to actually get these visas that we won’t know until we get the papers and that takes forever. Fingers crossed. If it works this time, you can be sure we’ll make it count. As for the billing, I much prefer a bill of mixed styles than an all black metal or all death metal lineup. Everything tends to sound the same after mere minutes and if there’s some contrast, every band gets more of a chance to shine in their own style. Plus, I always saw Dark Fortress as a metal band first and second as a black metal band. We never adhered to too many of the clichés associated with the genre, even though that’s still where we belong. But yeah, mix it up man! Hearing the same two chords all night long from every band on the bill is killing. We’re not in this to be bored, and neither is the audience, I hope.
MYE: For a band with a long history, do you still feel like you must win new fans or are you not as concerned? The history speaks for itself but it is good to have new acolytes, haha.
Morean: As an artist, you need a public but you don’t write your songs because that’s what people expect from you. You write about what strikes you as most awesome thing in that moment and then it’s up to the world to decide how much it likes what comes out. The best art is born from an inner obligation to create it, not from a misguided gamble to please as many people as possible. As long as our music can be heard by the people who might enjoy it, no matter if they knew us before or not, we’re happy. We can’t force anyone to like what we do. You cannot make yourself dependent on “the public’s” approval. That’s out of your hands. So what if everyone hates what you make? If you feel you need to make it, you have to make it anyway. Many times in history, it has taken a while for something new to be appreciated at its true value, no matter if in art, science, literature, technology or philosophy. I remember the reviews in the 80s in Metal Hammer of Bathory’s Under the Sign of the Black Mark album when it came out or the Hellhammer demos, or even the Candlemass debut. Most people just said, “what is this shit?”, until a new generation of listeners had time to grow and appreciate these things. We’re well aware we’re a third generation black metal band from the diaspor, and hardly at the forefront of new musical developments that the world doesn’t understand yet. So we are what we are and everyone’s welcome to join the party. If you don’t like it, that’s bad luck for you. We wouldn’t change a thing because of it.
MYE: Very true! “Pulling At Threads” is so fast and overpowering but you can also really feel the emotion. Is it hard to bridge intensity and not obliterate all feeling? This song is a great example of a tune that works doing both, painting a compelling feeling but also extreme metal.
Morean: Yes. It’s this balancing act that we think has set us apart from other bands in our genre. If there’s such a differentiation in content and atmosphere, we have to work harder than others to also find the right words and stories to accompany this wider pallet. The same is true for sound and production, since the drums for example have to sound as good in our occasional jazzy clean parts as they do in the usual blast beat jackhammer sections. We handle a broader outlook than just wanting to sound like a black metal band, although that isn’t so easy to achieve convincingly. All our songs are based on feeling. Without feeling, why make music at all? In this song, we challenged ourselves to cover this ground in a very compact form. You have to have your ingredients clearly lined up. In this case, it’s clean vocals in the chorus of a brutal and short song, but also that’s hardly revolutionary in 2020. Even though there are always those who would like to crucify you for doing anything that doesn’t sound like Norway in 1993. Those guys really, truly don’t interest us. They “listen” to us for all the wrong reasons.
MYE: What were themes you knew you wanted to include on this record ahead of time, if any? Or did the music bring the stories out afterwards? I really like “In Deepest Time” perhaps the most out of the album. Something about the energy when it starts is very big and captures the grand imagination.
Morean: I always like to take an idea or concept and take it to its extremes in my weird head. I knew I wanted to talk about the forces of nature here, their miraculous mechanics, their creative powers, and their world-spanning perspective. How exactly that finds its place in the songs is my challenge as a lyricist and vocalist when I get the songs as instrumental demos. But since we have been working together for so long, we know we can completely trust the others to deliver their parts. I have to construct my stories around the musical shape that Santura has given the album and might have to change those stories if the music doesn’t exactly go where my lyrical ideas would take me on their own. So far, it’s never been a problem to find enough common ground, and I’ve always had complete and utter freedom to say whatever I want in this band. “In Deepest Time” is a good example. It was the last song to be completed. I wrote the vocals and lyric right before recording them in Santura’s kitchen. I needed a few attempts, but in the end it turned from a potentially shaky candidate to one of our favorite songs on the album. Those are the challenges but at the same time the most magical moments in the studio.
MYE: What were the biggest challenges making this record? Was it recorded in Germany?
Morean: There’s plenty of challenges of you wanna make an album of high quality. A lot of that is of course in the songwriting. That took a while to bring it all together this time. Logistics don’t help because we tend to be always super busy and we live quite far from each other in different countries. The production is endless work, mainly for Santura, since he’s in charge of it, from writing the first note to delivering the final master. Since we go back such a long time, we now know how to do it efficiently. The fact that we can do it in our own studio greatly helps to achieve what we want. The biggest challenge, much more than inspiration or technical things, is always finding the time for these endeavors. We’re glad we did. There’s another Dark Fortress album to be proud of now.