Enthroned – Lead vocalist Nornagest
By Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
After 19 years, and 12 assorted albums and EPs, Enthroned are certainly not an underground element of the black metal scene, but a leader nestled close to the genre’s own dark heart. It’s a position that the band are sure to lock down in concrete boots with the upcoming release of new album ‘Obsidium’.
Exploring this next chapter in the Enthroned saga, long time stalwart and frontman Nornagest steps from the shadows to talk recording, milestones, and Newcastle Brown Ale…
First off, the big news with the band is the new album ‘Obsidium’, which is released later this month, but from what I see it’s already getting rave reviews – what does that mean to the band having that reaction so early?
Nornagest – Well, truly the reviews have been pretty positive – outstanding actually – I haven’t seen one bad review, and it always makes you feel good. Although it’s not our main goal to please people, just ourselves like the bunch of selfish people we are *laughs*, but it’s always nice to see that.
Having seen that from some of the critics, does it make you a bit nervous about how the fans will react? Are you hoping they’re going to be feeling the same?
N – Yes, as I said before even though we are mainly doing this for ourselves, and if we are pleased at the principle, of course when you see a positive reaction from the fans it really makes you feel good, and it pushes you further. It gives you more motivation, especially regarding live shows and so on.
With regards to live shows, I understand you’re having a release party for the album?
N – On the 23rd of this month in Brussels. Yes we organised a release party, like a special show, so people will see when they are coming there, we’re not going to spoil the whole thing before *laughs*But there’s definitely going to be a surprise and the bands that we asked, are not necessarily well known, but really really good and it’s a good opportunity to make them known as well to our fans in the audience.
It certainly sounds like it’s going to be quite special being there – for those won’t be available to so though, is there any other plans to tour this year?
N – We have a mini tour in the UK in May so we will play in Derby, Bristol and London – the dates are available on our Facebook page and Myspace, as well as some other dates in Belgium, one date in Romania, and we’re actually planning at the moment some dates in South America.
Is this the first time the band has been to South America? Is this quite a new area for you?
N – No we’ve been there already four times. That’s really good to play I would say, it’s pretty intense there.
It’s quite interesting because for some areas of the world we’re only now seeing some really established bands going out there, and it’s nice to see that in your own long career you’ve already done that.
N – Thanks. Yea we’re always really excited every time we have the offer to go back to South America, especially Brazil. It’s like mixing pleasure, holidays, work and everything together. *laughs*
I guess coming to the UK is not so glamorous, being just a hop over the ocean, but I hope when you do tour here it’s still enjoyable.
N – Oh yes, I guess so, in London it’s always nuts, so it’s really intense as well. Not as much as in Brazil, *laughs* but London is pretty good.
One of the tracks for the new album is available to premiere ‘Nonus Sacramentum’ – do you think that snippet will give listeners a good insight into what the album will be like?
N – The track ‘Nonus Sacramentum’ is just a little sampler, it’s like a chapter of it, but you cannot judge the whole album on that track – although this one that is pretty representative, but some of the tracks are really different from that one.
So I think the best thing is to buy the album anyway *laughs* if you like the idea of it.
We will put probably one more track online before the release, but I do strongly suggest people do get it, regarding the reviews and as well for myself it’s my band so I have a hard time to give an objective opinion, *laughs* I can say it’s very good, buy it!
If you’re putting a couple of tracks up for people to hear, is it quite hard to pick which ones to use?
N – Yeah, well to be honest we had kind of an argument *laughs* regarding the tracks we were going to show on internet, but yeah it’s usually more the tracks that will bring something different or are quite representative in some way, but in this case it’s a bit different. It’s really hard to choose a song because they are all different from one another. Personally I wanted to put another track called ‘Deathmoor’ but the others wanted that one, so I cannot be selfish all the time *laughs*
Maybe next album you can have your choice instead *laughs*?
N – I will! *laughs*
As you mentioned there although all the tracks are different in their own right, is there a particular overall concept or idea behind the album? Is there anything binding them all together?
N – Yes, actually there is not only about the album, but the three last albums are all actually linked to the same saga. For example on ‘Tetra Karcist’, not the previous one but the album we did before that, we started a concept.
On that album we are talking about occult and how it is – not the gimmicks, not the black metal Satanism, no the real occult and how it is, and on the album after it ‘Pentagrammaton’ it’s about real life experiences regarding those beliefs.
And this one ‘Obsidium’ now it’s what we learned and achieved regarding those beliefs.
So it almost rounds off something that has been building up over two albums?
N – Yes, exactly, and maybe the next one will again be another chapter of that whole concept.
Although it may be a bit pre-emptive to talk about what’s next, having only just completed ‘Obsidium’, have you already started to think about the next album?
N – No *laughs* we are very busy people and this one is not out yet so we don’t want to rush things, we want to focus on one thing at a time to do them correctly.
So we will see, we still have plenty of time for the next one *laughs* but first before that we have to take care of ‘Obsidium’.
Looking at the band itself, Enthroned is nearly 20 so how are you going to look to celebrate that?
N – Well we are thinking about that, but we don’t want to release a DVD or a best off or something like that, because everybody does that and most of the time it’s crap *laughs* We want to do something special, we don’t know what yet, we have to sit down and talk about it but we want to do something special, something nice, something good, or do nothing at all. Because if we will release another live DVD or a best of – it’s better to do nothing.
For some younger fans, or bands out there, 20 years probably feels like a long time to them – do you though feel in terms of your career that the band is in a better place than it ever has been before?
N – Actually yeah, like nowadays we are reaching some places and recognition from people, press, fans, everywhere, that we never had before.
In the past people were looking and judging and everything, and now we have that respect, and this is the peak I would say at the moment – maybe we will climb even higher in the future, I don’t know, maybe *laughs* but why not, and now the proof is that I never did so many interviews in my life, I’m getting physically tired *laughs*
I’m sure you are and going over a lot of the same ground over and over again!
N – Oh yes, I cannot hear any more – one specific question ‘can you give me a brief history of the band?’ – oh no fuck off *laughs* go on our website and just read!
I’m glad I skipped that one then! *laughs*
After all these years I thought that might have been covered by now!
N – Yes, but I still see it at least once a week and it’s like oh my god fuck off! *laughs*
Your own role in the band has evolved a little over the years – initially you played guitar, and then moved to vocals and took over being the frontman – through that progression what has been the most challenging aspect?
N – Well I would say there’s two moments – first when I had to take over the lead vocals and play lead guitar in the meantime live, that was kind of a big challenge because, well singing is one thing, but playing your lead solos while you’re singing that was a piece of work – but I managed with lots of practice and rehearsal.
The second challenge was when I had to quit playing guitar live on tours because I went to the doctor because I had some problems with my wrist and I have chronic tendinitis now. I can record the albums, I can compose them, no problem, but on tour it’s impossible.
That’s one of those unfortunate scenarios that I guess a lot of musicians dread?
N – The thing is I know this for years, but when I started to fuck up the songs live I thought I have to put my ego to one side and I have to put the band first. It’s a little bit stupid you know I prefer to take a second guitar player and do things correctly, than to still play live with my guitar and fuck up the songs.
I guess the bonus is as you say you are still able to play on the albums and composing?
N – Yeah
As the frontman as well, has that changed your role in terms of writing the albums?
N – Oh nothing at all, I’m still writing as much music as I used to and I basically almost wrote all the lyrics, so things didn’t change one bit concerning that.
We’ve touched on ‘Obsidium’ and the tour dates, but for the rest of the year though is there anything else you can share with us?
N – Well yeah we are pretty busy actually with our own recording studio *laughs* yeah we’ve had our own recording studio for two years now, and I’m taking care with Neraath, the other guitar player, of the graphic designing for the bands or clients whoever they are, and our bass player is taking care of production to record bands or advertising for labels like Toyota or something like that, it depends.
So yes it’s a lot of work on the side with Enthroned, and then we have our side project as well. I just released a seven inch EP with my side project ‘The Beast’ – a mix of black death metal and some electro music, so we’re quite busy *laughs*
For some of the fans of Enthroned that’s a little bit of a step away from what they expect of you?
N – Well you cannot be stuck in one genre, otherwise your life would be completely boring or meaningless *laughs* I think they would be more shocked if they knew I was a big fan of Nick Cave *laughs*
I don’t know *laughs* – he has sort of dabbled into darker lyrics and things
N – You know Nick Cave has really dark lyrics, he’s really fucked up in his lyrics.*laughs*
As you just mentioned the recording studio, was that where ‘Obsidium’ was recorded?
N – We did everything ourselves.
So we recorded, produced, mixed, mastered, everything ourselves, the artwork, the layout was all done by ourselves, just like the release party everything is organised by us.
For us now the studio, the production, the artwork and everything became a full part of the process of an album as much as the lyrics and music.
That’s something that’s really refreshing because after all your time in the industry if you wanted to you could delegate left right and centre, but you’ve obviously decided to keep things quite close and keep control over it?
N – Yeah, it’s better that way, because when you have your own studio you’re not in that stress, like you have to record, you have to do it in a certain amount of time.
Here if you want to take two months, you take two months.
If you want to record in the middle of the night, you record in the middle of the night, so it’s just way more relaxing.
And then you also get to work with lots of newer bands, so I guess you’re quite in touch with the local, and international scene?
N – Yeah, indeed.
We just recorded some local bands as well, and some interesting stuff is coming up actually, not only from there but also from abroad, we had some bands from England – there was a punk band from England who came to record in the studio.
We had an American band, which was more hardcore because he’s a member of Dog Eat Dog, so we record everything actually.
On a more quirky note, just taking from the band’s title if you were put on the throne for the day, what would you decree?
N – Hmm, that’s a good question. Well I would first move all the import of Newcastle Brown Ale to Belgium *laughs* seriously I have no clue. Like getting rid of all that politics bullshit that is going on in Belgium etc, but I’m not too interested in all that so I wouldn’t know really. *laughs*
A little more fun then – out with politics and in with Newcastle Brown
N – Legalise certain drugs *laughs*
Just to round off then, as you said you’re coming to the UK soon, what would you like to see from the audience – is there anything we can bring to the show?
N – Yeah, bleed! *laughs*
No, just show your faces and just let it go when you’re there, and go nuts – that’s it. Oh and buy the album as well!