The following interview with ANGIST guitarist Gyða Hrund Þorvaldsdóttir was originally published in the second issue of Colombia’s excellent BELLS OF ACHERON zine. But since it already covers almost everything you need to know about this killer Death Metal act from Iceland, we figured it would be pretty useless to do our own version of it… So, a big thanks goes out to BELLS OF ACHERON’s Jesus Claros, who kindly gave us the permission to use his interview instead… So read on, dive into the cold world of ANGIST and enjoy the band’s music!
Please could you introduce the band to our readers so they can get into the infernal innards of ANGIST? How did the idea to form a band of dark and dense putrefaction come about? To me ANGIST is an imminent attack of heavy Death Metal, very well executed with influences from the old gods of Death…
"Edda and I knew each other for a while before the band started and had always talked about how much fun it would be to start a band together. We both had very similar taste in music and since we both played guitar, we decided to jam together and that went really well. We are both very passionate about our music and we have the same vision which makes working together very easy. After a while we wanted to make more of our music so we got Edda’s brother, Halli, to play bass and we’ve gone through a few drummers. We are very lucky to have Tumi with us now."
How is the cold Reykjavik? What are the most important and touristic places in Iceland? I have read somewhere that in your city there is something called the Nordic House (designed by the famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto)…
"Reykjavík is the largest city in Iceland and the population is 120.000 (the entire population of Iceland is only 320.000). It’s a very nice city, it’s small but has everything a capital should have. Nice restaurants, good bars and shops, all combined with the amazing harbour view. Yes, the Nordic House is in Reykjavik, it acts as a hub for the artistic connection between all the Scandinavian countries. It hosts gigs, art shows, lectures and more. If you are a tourist in Iceland you have so many options. The landscape is quite unique and you don’t have to go far to be completely mesmerized by it’s beauty. The popular Golden Circle (Gullfoss, Geysir and Þingvellir) is a good day trip if you have limited time. The Blue Lagoon is the best hangover cure in the world and Akureyri in the north is a great place. But the best thing to do is just get a car and drive. You’ll always stumble upon majestic mountains, waterfalls and vast lavafields."
In my country, Colombia, we are living violent times for a long time now… kidnappings, car bombings and killings take place almost daily… What can you tell me about your city Reykjavik? Is it a violent place or a peaceful and easy place secure for all its inhabitants?
"To hear that description of your country makes us value our safe and clean country even more. The crime rate is very low, we have only around 1 or 2 murders per year and you are pretty safe all the time. Even in the capital city of Reykjavík the police officers don’t even carry guns. We are a very peaceful nation with no military."
I know there has been an underground movement since the very beginning in Iceland but the amount of bands has been limited, even though I have heard some that are truly good like SORORICIDE, SEVERED CROTCH, SVARTIDAUDI, among others… What other bands could you recommend from the local underground? How is the scene in Iceland? How frequent concerts take place in your country?
"The population of the entire country is only around 320,000 people, so it’s quite obvious that our scene is rather small, but it’s also very close knit; everyone knows everyone. But because it’s a small scene people try to help each other out so for example when someone is going to record an album they usually put up a fund raiser gig and the other bands help out by playing for free, making posters, lending equipment, advertising etc. But we have a lot of bands and different styles, so within the scene there is are Black Metal bands, Death Metal bands, technical Death Metal bands, Hardcore bands etc. and when there’s a gig on you get a range of bands almost every time, which is great because it can broaden your musical horizon and you can get into a genre of music that you didn’t even know you liked. What I would also say about the scene here is that the people are very dedicated and hard working. We have so many amazing bands here, and even though we are usually just playing for the same people, there’s always a gig going on, people recording and releasing records on their own, financed out of their own pockets, and lately bands are getting more attention outside of Iceland and scoring record deals, which is great! We can recommend bands like SÓLSTAFIR, SKÁLMÖLD, AZOIC, MOMENTUM, MALIGNANT MIST, BLOOD FEUD and many other great acts."
Is there an old band from your country that you could consider an influence on you as musician or Metalhead?
"Our friends are all in music and bands like SÓLSTAFIR who have been our friends for a really long time influence you in a way that you want to create music and perform."
The logo of the band is totally killer, and it was designed by Christophe Szpajdel, a person who doesn’t need introduction since he is the one responsible for creating logos of bands such as DESASTER, IMPIETY, VOMITORY, ENTHRONED and some others… How did you guys reached an agreement with him to design your logo?
"Yes thank you, we are very happy with our logo. Christophe was very nice to work with and we are very glad that he wanted to co-operate with us. We feel the logo really suits the band’s music."
Besides the name in Icelandic, as a band what kinds of characteristics do you guys belief your band has inherit from your country? Are there many stupid Christians in Iceland?
"Christianity is official religion here in Iceland but I wouldn’t consider us a very religious nation. More and more people are deregistering from the national church and the old Ásatrú is growing more and more popular. Iceland can be very dark and bleak. With the grim landscape and 9 months over very little sunlight it’s easy to make evil music so I guess that will influence people like us when making music."
I know you guys have a firm line-up regarding the voice, guitars and bass, but in the drums department the band has gone through some changes… What has been the reason for this? Is it difficult to find a good and reliable Death Metal drummer in your country?
"There’s definitely a lack of good Metal drummers in Iceland and they are all in 3 or 4 other bands haha. But of course people make it work and with good planning everything is possible. We demand full dedication from every member because we are very driven. We are really lucky to have Tumi with us now, he’s a great drummer and fits really well into the band, both musically and as a friend which we think is very important. We are such a tight group so it’s important to have good people around us. We feel the line-up of ANGIST was completed when he joined."
Without a shadow of a doubt ANGIST shows an obscure and consistent Death Metal, but besides that, what has really gotten my attention is the fact that two girls are part of the band. Edda handles the vocals and she is very blasphemous and cavernous; then you are in charge of the guitar and it is similarly heavy, so my question is: how did you start in the deep realms of Metal? Is it common to find girls in the Icelandic underground?
"Well, in Iceland it’s very common for girls to be in music but they tend to go for the softer approach. Me and Edda have usually been the only ones playing in the Metal scene but we hope to inspire some girls to pick up an instrument or the microphone and make some real noise. But in the scene in general there are a lot of girls. We have some really dedicated girls who put up shows, take pictures, host radio shows and other important things. All involvement is good."
I have known of some women playing in Metal bands that have gotten themselves into some embarrassing situations where drunken spectators have harassed these women sexually. What can you tell us about yourself have you ever been into these types of situations or people have mostly behaved accordingly?
"Thankfully we haven’t had anything like that happening to us. Sometimes we get really drunk guys coming up to us after the show and it can be a little overwhelming but never onstage. We are quite happy with that. But most people are really nice and we really like talking to people after the show and connecting with our fans."
“Circle Of Suffering” has obtained great responses in the worldwide underground… How were the recording sessions in Wann at Emissary Studio? Is the musical composition a fairly democratic process or is there a main writer?
"Yeah we are very happy with how people have been reacting to this release. We recorded it in the middle of a forest in a haunted house so maybe that has something to do with the darkness of it haha. Me and Edda meet a lot in Edda’s living room to write the basic riffs for the songs and then we jam out the songs at practice. In the end it’s a team effort and everyone has a saying about the final outcome."
On “Circle Of Suffering” Edda is in charge of the lyrics completely… Is it going to be the same for this album? Why is it that the other members of the band didn’t participate in the lyrical writing aspect of this process? Do you guys think this is just a matter that is supposed to be handled by the singer of the band?
"Well, Edda has to sing those lyrics and deliver them with passion and feeling so it’s just maybe natural that she writes them. She has also been writing lyrics and poems for a long time and she’s really good at it so it’s just the right way. I might pitch in with a word or two but her lyrics are deadly! To us, lyrics are as important as the music itself. It aids in the delivery of the music."
Nowadays many bands used unoriginal and boring cover arts, but the cover art for “Circle Of Suffering” is really dark… How did the band decide for this concept? What can you tell us about Christian Sloan Hall, how come you decided that he would be the one to work on the cover of the EP? I know he has worked on some arts for BLOODBATH and AMON AMARTH among others. What can you tell us about the art on your next release?
"Yeah, we are really happy with the artwork for "Circle Of Suffering". We definitely wanted something original and we feel the artwork is such an important part of the whole experience of the music. Christian is a friend of mine and he stayed in Iceland at my place for a week and somehow between sightseeing and excessive beer drinking it was decided that he would do the artwork for us. The band talked a lot about the concept and based on the lyrical theme we came up with this idea which he executed so nicely. We have ideas for our upcoming artwork but no artist is set at the moment. We can’t reveal anything at the moment but as always it’s inspired by our music and lyrics."
After a good demo and a great EP, the band has signed with Abyss Records to release the first album. Are you happy with the work this label is doing? What are the characteristics a label should possess to be able to work with ANGIST?
"Yes we are very happy with Daniel and Abyss Records. He’s dedicated and hard working and that’s exactly what we are looking for in our label, someone who cares for us and our music. We need someone who understands our vision and gives us the freedom to explore it. We were also very lucky to get the opportunity to re-release our demo and EP on a cassette in Malaysia through Narrowards Kult and we had a really good experience working with him. This is the first time our long sold out demo has been re-released but it’s limited copies so if people are interested they should go here: http://narrowards.blogspot.com/ and grab one while they can!"
Listening to ANGIST, please tell me honestly, do you find any similar trace with any other band? Have you guys ever had in mind an idea like “let’s play this song more in the style of INCANTATION or SUFFOCATION”?
"We of course draw influences from our favourite bands but we have developed our own style and way of writing so we really just do whatever comes up in our heads."
A lot of bands have very strong satanic, misanthropy, occultism influences and undertaking their ideologies in extreme ways (some bands radicalize their stand so much that they start to lose any common sense) is there any defined ideology behind the concept of ANGIST?
"Well our name, ANGIST, means torment and we focus more on the torment of the soul, self-loathing, sociopaths and the human frailty in general."
Last April, the band played the Desert Festival in London sharing the stage with legendary bands such as PAGAN ALTAR and PENTAGRAM… How were your thoughts on this?
"Desertfest was a great opportunity for us to play abroad again and get in contact with a new crowd. It was a really cool show and we made a lot of new friends. We are very thankful for this experience and we want to thank José and Matthew for believing in us. It’s always a good experience to play for a new crowd and see how they re-act, we were stoked to see how many people turned up and how well our music was received. We also did a two week tour around Iceland and the Faroe Islands where we played a lot of shows and two festivals, Eistnaflug Festival in Iceland and G! Festival in the Faroe Islands. Touring is what we love so we are all still suffering from post tour depression haha. We have so much fun together and the Faroe Islands band that we were touring with, EARTH DIVIDE, and their tour manager Teitur, were so much fun. We hope to go on tour with them again in the near future."
What can one expect from ANGIST live performances?
"You can expect that we give 110% into every performance! Being on stage is what we love and we try to evolve our performances and make the best show possible for the audience and deliver our music with full force."
Gyða, we have come to the last question on this interview, I hope you had a good time and I wanted to thank you for your time answering these questions… Furthermore, I hope to be able to own a copy of the first ANGIST album… Any last words?
"We are just always thankful for hardworking people like yourself helping us out and showing our music interest. Also our fans always deserve a mention because we wouldn’t be where we are today with out them, thank you guys!"
Interview: Sergio “Mutant Balls” Jaramillo / Jesus Claros