Norwegian black metal veterans Vreid return with their latest album Wild North West. We caught up with drummer Jørn “Steingrim” Holen, who fills us in on the new record, touring, their new beer and other topics.
How did the songwriting process for Wild North West compare to previous Vreid albums?
Jørn “Steingrim” Holen: Not too different actually. The songs/riffs often takes its form during the “closement” of touring the previous album – but this time the pandemic kind of led to a speeding of the process. We had to fill the free time with something creative.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
The recording in the studio was, as always, a cool period with lots of fun moments, hard work and dedication. Personally I think this period of the process is the best one – to see and hear the album taking shape. This time around we also had the recording of the movie, which was fun – sometimes very cold, but fun and something new and challenging.
What is the album’s concept?
This is a semi-fictitious story of the journey of a young man leaving home to explore what he believes is a better and more exciting life – just realizing that the world can be the harshest environment. Some return alive traumatized, some never return and some return in a coffin.
Is writing a concept album more difficult than a traditional album, or just different?
We’ve done that so many times now I think, so I guess no. We do not always decide to “do a concept album” – the idea of just that evolves as the lyrics and music is being born.
How has the band’s sound evolved from Lifehunger?
I think the pandemic has, in a positive way, made us believe in what we do is good, we can make things happen ourselves. Parallel to that, let’s release this album, this song like we want – and to a bigger degree than ever before (we never care about that aspect but still) give a big f*** about the opinion of “will this song fit Vreid or not”?
I understand the history of the song “Into The Mountains” dates back nearly 20 years.
Yes, we discovered some files from an old disc, and this proved to be files from Terje “Valfar” Bakken from approximately 2002, in between the 1184 and Likferd recordings. This sparked the idea of using the original files from nearly 20 years ago, and combine them with new riffs. I’m pretty stoked about how that turned out, in my opinion one of the strongest songs we’ve ever made.
Talk about the visual aspect of the album, with the film that accompanies the record.
The visual aspect grew on us during the summer of 2020, and we were also inspired by the DIY-livestream we did in June. So the thought of making the album as a movie just evolved into timelines, lyrics, thoughts on where to shoot the scenes and so on. The timing of releasing a full movie with the album was good, as we were not able to do live shows and people are stuck home with Covid restrictions. So in my opinion you have to see the album first, and then listen to the album after that. Then you have the visuals in your head as you listen to the songs – and realize that we’re telling a story, not just releasing 8 songs.
I admit this idea was a bit crazy, and several times I/we thought that this was a bit ambitious – doing everything low-budget and so on. But I’m very proud of the final result – and of course proud that we just went for it and never changed the plans.
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
This is, as I see it, another step in building the band, getting the stuff out there and hopefully reach out to more people with our music. Touring new territories would also be cool, let’s see if the pandemic let us do that or not. That being said, we will continue releasing albums whether you want them or not!
How much attention do you pay to reviews?
Of course it’s important, and good reviews give us a boost and confirmation that we’ve done something right. So I read some of them, but not all.
You’ve been releasing albums for 20 years, and the promotional process has changed dramatically due to social media. Do you like the transparency and access of today’s releases, or do you prefer the old days when there was more mystique behind an album release?
The social media situation of 2021 certainly gives bands a better chance of reaching out there, promoting our stuff – but of course there’s also downsides to this. In some degree I miss the old days, but generally I do not look back and think everything was better before.
How has the pandemic affected the band?
It’s sparked lot’s of ideas to adjust to the new situation I guess – which I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have done without the pandemic. We’ve kickstarted ideas, livestream(s), producing our own beer, cooperation with our football team in Sogndal and of course the movie for the album. We can not sit around feeling sorry for ourselves. Let’s just do more, other stuff, and make it something positive.
How has it affected you personally?
I’ve been working from my home office for over a year now, which is something different. It’s been ok, some months a bit boring and of course I’d rather be in a normal situation, and get to meet other people more often. Norway has generally not been hit that hard, but here in Oslo (where I live) everything has been shut down since the new year – so I’m looking forward to things normalizing..
When do you anticipate the band will be able to play live shows again?
Who knows? The correct answer is “as soon as possible,” but hopefully we can do “restricted” shows during late autumn/winter, but major tours and festivals – possibly 2022.
What led you to launch your own beer, and what has the response been like?
We’ve wanted to launch our own beer for some time. Stian “Strom” has been doing home brewing for years, and every tour is an endless march of trying out local beer and specialities. So the idea just grew on us to try to do our own Vreid beer. We had two or three breweries interested, but decided to go for Balder Brewery, as this is our local brewery from Sogndal (Leikanger), and we know the people there – which makes the process a bit easier.
What are some of your non-musical interests and hobbies?
I guess Football (Soccer) is up there. Other than that it’s just good to get out in the nature – hikes, bicycling – enjoy the wilderness as much as possible.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Right now there are mainly three bands: The Ocean – especially their latest release Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic/Cenozoic, ILLT – all three singles from the upcoming album, but especially “Blood of the Unbeliever” and Terra Odium – The Clouded Morning.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Just want to thank you for the interest in Vreid, stay healthy and we’ll see you on the road after the covid shit has left the building.
(interview published April 30, 2021)