I suppose these guys don’t need no further introduction as Norway’s URGEHAL have become a wellknown, strong force in the international Black Metal scene over the past couple of years. So, instead of wasting your time with superfluous long introductional words, let’s go straight into the interview with Enzifer. Enjoy!
Before you actually started out with URGEHAL in 1992, you already played with Trondr Nefas for a couple of years… Did you still go under a different name at the time, or was it more like you consider that period as a sort of learning experience?
"Yes we had a couple of different names, but we only recorded some rehearsal tapes under the name DIABOLICAL which was never released. It was a period of creation and development for today’s necrotic sound of Urgehal."
When did you come up with the name URGEHAL then and what inspired the choice of that monicker? What is the actual meaning behind it?
"It was during the writing of our first demo "Ferd". Urgehal is an expression in old Norse mythology. It’s not a wellknown name, but lies well hidden behind the lines of fundamental darkness. It is an endless deep and dark forest where all the evil dwells. Constant lurking and creating negative energy."
Was it just Trondr and yourself all the way through until you found Ulv and Aradia in early 1994 or did you have other members come and go before them?
"Under the Urgehal banner it was only the two of us just before the first demo recording."
With that line-up you finally recorded your debut demo "Ferd"… Would you mind telling us a bit more about it, like which songs appeared on it, if you recorded them in a real studio already, how many copies got spread of that demo and so on?
"We recorded it with some help from some comrades at our rehearsal place, because there was no budget for a "real" studio. The result turned out pretty good to be the first studio experience. It was a 4 track demo with only Norwegian tracks. ‘I Ruinene Av Et Forlatt Slott’, ‘Den Som Jakter I Natten’, ‘Din Ofrelse’ and ‘I Søvnens Stillhet’. I have no idea how many copies we spread but it was quite many. And there was also a lot of bootlegs around."
How many songs did you approximately have to choose from at the time and how did you decide which ones to record for the demo? Or was it simply the newest material you had at the time?
"We didn’t have many tracks to choose from so it wasn’t very hard. And we wanted only a four track demo."
Did you already promote the demo by sending it out to zines and labels or was it more like you did that for yourselves in the first place and those people who wanted to buy it?
"We have always done it for ourselves in the first place, but we did spread it to a few labels and also ‘zines."
Weren’t you really satisfied with the overall result or simply quick songwriters? I’m just asking because only six months later you already had your second demo "Rise Of The Monument" on offer
"It was a bit of both. We were quite creative and our sound started to take shape so instead of holding back we just kept on creating."
While "Ferd" still featured lyrics in your native tongue exclusively, "Rise Of The Monument" also had lyrics in English for the first time… what was the reason for you not to continue on in Norwegian only?
"Some lyrics sound better in our native tongue and some sound better in English. This is quite interesting during the writing process, but it happens natural."
After the release of that demo you parted ways with Aradia… what was the reason for the split-up with him? Did you ever consider to replace him or was it clear for you right away that you could easily continue on as a three-piece also?
"Actually her. Aradia was only a "member" of the band because she was Nefas’ girlfriend at that time and unfortunately she played synth. You can hardly hear the synth on the first two demos just because it follows the guitar riffs 90%. URGEHAL have never needed or will need synth to create atmosphere in the music and that’s why we kicked her out."
At the same time Ulv changed his pseudonym to Chiron… any particular reason for that?
"He was a schizoid with many faces, so I never doubt his choices."
Next up was the contract offer from Germany’s No Colours Records… were they the first to get in touch or simply the most attractive label for you? Did you sign with them right away or have there been any doubts because of the rather controversial attitude of the label?
"We had a few other offers, but No Colours was the most interesting and therefore a natural choice for us back then, even though they had too many shitty bands in their lair."
"Arma Christi", your debut album, came out at the end of 1996… please tell us a bit more about it… Did you re-record a bunch of old tunes for it or was it all brand new material?
"After the "Rise…" demo we continued as a three piece band which was much more inspiring. We kept on creating new spells and rehearsed. It was actually a rehearsal tape we sent to different labels who gave us a record deal. You could find one of the track ‘Bloodhunt’ at our anniversary album. The "Arma Christi" album only contained one old track from the second demo. Namely ‘Måtte Blodet Flomme’. The rest was new fresh tunes. We recorded the album in Børge Finstad’s GL studio which is Toproom Studio today. He has done bands like Mayhem, Borknagar, Vintersorg and Arcturus. But we were his first real Metal experience. I remember he wanted us to sound like Pantera so we needed to tell him exactly what Black Metal was all about."
How was the overall response on it from the international underground scene, considering the fact that a lot of people probably weren’t aware of URGEHAL before No Colours took over the promotion?
"It was not easy for us because we didn’t get any feedback or sale statement from No Colours. The communication was not easy since their English was not good at that time. But we were more known in Germany than in Norway at that time."
Did you play any gigs in support of it (or prior already)?
"We did play one gig at Lacoste MC in Sarpsborg together with RAGNAROK and LEGION. It was actually before the recording of the album. The line up was: Trondr Nefas – vocals & guitar. Chiron – bass, Blodpøl – session guitar and Ensifer – drums. Mayhem played at the same place earlier in the ’90s."
About a year later (end of 1997) your second album "Massive Terrestrial Strike" was released… Where do you see the biggest improvements compared to "Arma Christi"?
"It’s mostly our development as musicians and writers. The atmosphere is pretty equal to the first album, except from a few Thrash influences. This album was recorded in Endless studio by Pål Klaastad who worked with bands like Ulver, Turbonegro, Dødheimsgard and many more."
You recorded that album with Uruz on drums, which came into the band as a session member at first, but ended up being a fulltime member in the end. Tell us a bit about this and what actually had caused the change of drummers
"It was me who had taken care of the drums in addition of the guitar at that time, and I was more of a guitarist and wanted to play guitar live. So we were looking for a permanent drummer, but at that time it was not easy to find dedicated drummers. Uruz was a highly skilled drummer and gave us exactly what we were looking for except from he was more there for the drumming. But we could live with that."
Are there actually two different versions of the album out? The copy I own only has a one-sided inlay instead of a booklet and features the URGEHAL logo on one side and the songtitles on the back… I also noticed that there’s another one with a picture of the earth around
"Really? I didn’t know that. I only know of two different copies. The first edition is with pictures from different photo sessions and desecrations from the early years and the new edition which we made together with No Colours. This is the same booklet except from different pictures inside and on the back. It only proves they have done more represses than we are aware of. Ha! I would really like to see this release."
Did you ever regret the back cover pictures on that album?
"I don’t care now, but they were way too personal and more than people could handle at that time. There was a lot of desecration and alcolust behind those pictures. One guy could have burned to death at that time if it wasn’t for one less drunk guy who handled really fast after someone sprinkled him in moonshine and set him on fire."
After that album you seemed to have quite a few problems with No Colours Records as you parted ways with them and URGEHAL disappeared into obscurity for quite a while… Please tell us a bit about this period in your career! Did those kinda problems also lead to Chiron leaving URGEHAL or were other reasons responsible for that?
"No, as I mentioned earlier he was unpredictable and was heading for another journey in his life."
What can you tell us about your session members Blodpol, Diabolus, Sorgar, Endechrist and Northgrove? Why didn’t they join you permanently?
"Blopøl was the guitarist in Voluspaa and Draugsal which also helped us with the demo recordings and as a session guitarist during the Sarpsborg gig. Northgrove abused vocal during one gig in our hometown just after the "Massive Terrestrial Strike" album. Sorgar & Endechrist are assassins of the black flame during some of our live desecrations. Diabolus helped us out during our tour together with Shining just after Sregroth quit. It was never a part of the plan to have any of them as permanent members. They just helped us out."
So, when exactly did you continue on again and at which point of time did Flesh For Beast Records step into the picture?
"It was in ’01 – ’02 we got an offer from a close comrade which recently did start a label, namely Flesh For Beast Records (NOT FFB records). With his promise of total freedom and dedication we started making a new album. "Atomkinder" was released with the force of an atomic bomb in 2001."
What made you sign with a totally new and unexperienced label instead of shopping for a more established one? Weren’t you afraid that problems (that you already had experienced with No Colours) could pop up again?
"Just because he was a close comrade and we wanted to have full control of our release and he gave us that. It would be a lot easier than the co-operation with No Colours since he lived in the same city. Maybe the distribution wasn’t the best, but today Agonia Records takes care of that."
The result out of this co-operation was entitled "Atomkinder" and came out in 2001… Tell us a little bit about this album… What made you choose a German title for it and who came up with the overall concept to use those pictures and stuff?
"It was Trond who came up with the title because of the track ‘Atomkinder’ and it was a kind of concept with mass destruction and total genocide of the human race. We believe we’ll exterminate our self sooner or later and the world will collapse. The cover photo represents the children of the genocide which will destroy mankind. It was actually Sorgar from Flesh For Beast Records who had the idea of using this picture. The layout is designed by Mary – Ann Manninen who also have taken photos for Darkthrone."
Were you lacking in enough new songs or what made you go for two cover songs ("Ripping Corpse’ by KREATOR and ‘Antichrist’ by SEPULTURA) as well?
"No, but we wanted a short and intense album and thought it was about time to made our contribution to the old gods who have inspired us through the years."
How did you get together with Sregroth, who joined you on bass afterwards?
"He was from the same city as ourselves, so we came across him through some common friends. He already played in the Folk Metal band ASMEGIN at that time so we knew about him. Sadly he quit Urgehal just before the release of "Goatcraft Torment". A hard decision to take, but we totally respect that. He will concentrate on ASMEGIN now. He is probably one of the strongest live personalities I’ve ever seen."
In support of the album you played a small tour in Germany… Tell us a bit more about it, like with which bands you played, what kind of responses you got and so on
"Yeah we played a mini – tour together with SEEDS OF HATE (GER) and LUGUBRE (NL) at Knaack club in Berlin and almighty Festung in Bitterfeld. This was our fourth gig for URGEHAL and first gig outside Norway so it was special for us. The response was quite good and we didn’t expect that much people to know about us. There was a lot of fighting at the Nachspiel after the Festung gig that led to much trouble, so the security told us in the night they couldn’t control it any more so we had to leave. So I drove our rental car quite drunk from Bitterfeld to Kiel with corpsepaint. But we played the year after without any problems so it’s something to look back at."
Next up was "Through Thick Fog Till Death", your fourth full length, which was released mid 2003 in co-operation between Flesh For Beast Records and Agonia Records from Poland… What lead to this joint venture with Agonia exactly?
"Flesh For Beast got in touch with Agonia and they decided to co-operate and help each other out with distribution."
In support of the album, a tour with SHINING and BLOODLINE was planned, but it seems it didn’t really become reality… what happened?
"That was a fucking mess. We went all the way to Germany prepared to spread URGEHAL’s disease together with Filip from Agonia Records, but when we were at the Halford club in Berlin we got the message the whole tour was cancelled because there was no chance SHINING could make it and they had tried everything. So we only played one gig at Festung and went home pretty pissed off. But off course such things happens. Last year we re-opened the wounds and went on tour together with SHINING again and it turned out really great."
The next URGEHAL release was the "Demonrape" 7"… tell us a bit more about that, like which songs appeared on it, when you recorded them and who released the EP?
"We always wanted to release a 7" and finally had the chance. We recorded two extra tracks during the "Through Thick Fog Till Death" album we decided to use for this release and it was released through Agonia Records, but pretty late after the "Through Thick…" album. ‘Demonrape’ was Trondr Nefas’ contribution and I made ‘Serpent Messiah’ and Diabolus from Vulture Lord wrote the lyrics."
Apart from that 7" you spent most of 2004 playing shows, didn’t you? There was Norway’s Inferno Festival as well as a three weeks tour with Polish THUNDERBOLT and DAWN OF AZAZEL across Europe… Tell us a bit about these shows
"Yes, we first played at the Inferno Festival which turned out to be a totalitarian warfare of unholy might. We were elected as the best act of the last day by many magazines and we also had a lot of people at the show something we absolutely didn’t expect. Later the same year we once again went to Germany to meet Filip and heading for another European tour. Since the disappointing experience in 2003 we had no expectations at all but, it turned out really great with a lot of good live rituals across Europe. We made strong connections with the bands."
"Goatcraft Torment", your newest full length, was recorded in two different sessions… What was the reason for splitting up the recordings instead of finishing it all in just one session?
"We believe it’s easier to focus on less tracks at a time to get the best result therefore we split the recording. And it’s quite hard for Uruz to do 10 tracks in a row. It’s limited with time we got in a studio because of the budget so we’re are well prepared and works hard."
Even though I liked all of your albums so far, it always seemed to me that each URGEHAL release was musically a little different (within the quite limited boundaries of grim Black Metal) and that you were struggeling a little bit to find a unique style on your own… With "Goatcraft Torment" this misery is obviously over as it’s the first URGEHAL album that combines the best elements of all your previous releases and therefore your strongest musical statement yet. Would you agree here?
"Yes, I’m pretty much agreeing with you. With this album I think we managed to create our own unique Urgehalish sound we’ve always wanted and I personally think overall it’s our best album both sound wise and with the songwriting. It’s much more variation in the song structures than on the previous album and therefore more complete. And we will continue in the same vein with Satanic Black Metal."
What about the lyrical side of things… do you think that Black Metal lyrics need to deal with Satanic or Occult topics exclusively or is there more to write about?
"There are many aspects of Satanism and the occult and there have to be a connection in the lyrics between those genres and also death. If not it’s not Black Metal."
Could you imagine to follow the footsteps of all the other, bigger Black Metal acts, and completely dropping the corpsepaint one day?
"Ha, never! I think it’s fucking stupid. Just like they wanted to make a statement: "Look we’re grown up now". It belongs to the whole abomination of Black Metal and always will be."
Shortly after the album came out you already went on another tour again… Tell us a bit more about these most current live shows and which bands had joined you on the road
"We went together with TAAKE and KOLDBRANN in so it was an all Norwegian tour except the two first dates we couldn’t’ play so mighty Darkened Nocturnal Slaughtercult was a replacement for us. Hail!!! It was promoted by Blast Corpse Booking and everything was really professional and the best tour we ever did. But as you probably heard the tour was almost cancelled halfway because the booking agency meant we made to much trouble and didn’t behave in the bus. And also because of the little show Hoest did at the Essen gig. To be together with 17 others on a fucking bus in over two weeks makes you fucked up and tired. Even though it’s been the best travelling companion ever, since we knew both band from before."
Agonia Records have just released another URGEHAL album, entitled "The Eternal Eclipse – 15 Years Of Satanic Black Metal"… Don’t you think putting it out so close to "Goatcraft Torment" might hurt the regular album sales and confuse people a bit?
"No, just because we doing this mainly for ourselves and the true fans of Urgehal and we don’t care much about disturbing any sale. We thought it was about time to do something different in form of an anniversary album with some new, unreleased and rare tracks. Not only put together a best of shit. It was released just before our last tour together with TAAKE and KOLDBRANN so it was a perfect timing."
This album features some rare recordings as well as three tracks from the "Goatcraft Torment" session… Why didn’t they make it on the regular album?
"No, then the album would be far too long and the effective dark magic would be gone."
What is this "A Norwegian Hail To Von" track ‘Veadtuck’ all about? Was that previously ever released somewhere else?
"It’s our contribution to the mighty VON. This track is also to be found on the double EP "A Norwegian Hail to VON" released through Holycaust Records USA containing bands besides Urgehal also TAAKE, AMOK and NORWEGIAN EVIL. This was mastermind Hoest from TAAKE’s idea."
The discography that is printed in "The Eternal Eclipse" also mentions a picture disc called "Rise Of The Monument" and a split 7" entitled "Nekromisantrop"… tell us all necessary details about those as well? Which songs appeared on them, with which band was the split EP and who released those two EPs?
"The "Rise Of The Monument" picture disc is our second demo on vinyl released through Agonia Records. This was Trondr Nefas’ idea he worked out together with Agonia. This release is meant for the true dedicated Urgehal fans. It contains the original track list as on the demo. ‘Måtte Blodet Flomme’, ‘Souls Of Black Blood’, ‘Fortært Av Skogens Skapninger’, ‘En Legende Av Mørket’, ‘Vintermørke’, ‘Towards Dimensions Unseen’ and ‘The Forest Of Illusion’. The new 7" is a split release through BlackSeed Productions together with Norwegian elite BEASTCRAFT."
Was the "Arma Christ" song ‘Eternal Eclipse’ exclusively re-recorded for this compilation album or what was the intention behind it?
"Yes, we recorded it at our rehearsal place only for this release."
It seems that Sregroth is also history again, as Mannevond is mentioned as your new bassplayer in the booklet… What lead to this line-up change and how did you get together with Mannevond?
"That’s right. He decided to concentrate on other things and couldn’t support us the way both part wanted. It’s too bad really, because he was a great beast on the stage. Mannevond has replaced Sregroth and are now a worthy permanent member. He played with us during our last European tour together with TAAKE and KOLDBRANN. We have known him for along time since we done some touring with KOLDBRANN before and I actually asked him if he knew any good bass players and he wanted to give it a shot."
Anything else we might’ve missed out here, you’d like to add to this interview? Any plans for the near future already? Thanx a lot, and all the best.
"Thanks for the interest in Urgehal’s desecrations.This autumn we will concentrate on our new album which will probably recorded in the late October if everything turns out as supposed. Await utter Northern Darkness!!!!"
Interview: Frank Stöver
pics: Twilightheart (www.sheol-magazine.com)