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Burning Darkness's Per Kolderup Finstad: "Maybe we missed the chance of being contemporary and writing about current events, but that's not really what a black metal band should do I think"

Interview with Per Kolderup Finstad from Burning Darkness
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 04 July 2021, 12:58 AM

Death has been under the crosshairs of Metal music ever since its proud inception decades ago, however, it sounded perhaps less sinister than the extreme versions that exist nowadays. Nonetheless, to dwell on it and understand it, that is quite the experience. Holding a torch for the power of Death, there is the Swedish Black Metal band, Burning Darkness, releasing their new album, “Dödens Makt”. With a slight change of direction and overall aura, Steinmetal talked to the vocalist, Per Kolderup Finstad, about his perspective of the new album and more…

Hello Per, it is great to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing?

Thanks for having me. I've been doing ok. Busted my knee badly at work a couple of months ago, but it's getting better now. Enjoying the nice summer. Excited about the new album coming out this weekend.

Nothing has been too easy lately, this pandemic is really having its effects in various ways over the world. Some countries are measuring up their efforts against it and some are battling on the back lines. In your view, where does Sweden stand in this struggle against the virus?

Reacting too late and too soft. Hardly any restrictions. The elderly were sacrificed for the economy's sake. We're finally getting vaccinated this summer, though. Feels like we're the last ones.

Going even backwards, a little bit of conspiracy mentioning, there are still folks out there that believe that all this pandemic is a tool, a charade for governments in order to restructure order. What do you find in these notions? Is there such a chance for this to actually happen behind our backs?

Just a bunch of Facebook-moms who are into the newest conspiracy. The origins of the virus have not been found as of yet, at least as far as I know. If it's a conspiracy by the (American) government to establish order it isn't working very well, is it? The only thing I hear about from the US is about riots pretty much. I've also heard from these conspiracy fools that facemasks are about controlling people. I'll bet a couple of years ago they were concerned by CCTV, surveillance and the government spying on them. Now not showing your face is being controlled. It's kind of entertaining to the demonstrations against restrictions and for "freedom" spread to Sweden where you aren't even required to wear a mask. The only mildly irritating thing is that pubs and restaurants close a bit early. Let's get everybody vaccinated. I want to go to the pub.

Following a rather independent journey, in the past two decades, you finally settled down with a label to host your sophomore album, signing with the Dutch Non Serviam Records. What led you to sign with a label after such a long time being on your own? How do you find this signing with Non Serviam?

When we finally got around to making our debut album we didn't really bother searching for a label. The whole process had taken far too long, so we released it ourselves just to get it out as soon as it was done. We didn't have any help promoting it. This led to it kind of drowning among all the other releases and not being heard by many people. All the response we got was positive, but the responses were very few. Our drummer knew Ricardo who runs Non Serviam since a while back and when he heard the second album he was interested in releasing it. Of course we're hoping this will lead more people discovering Burning Darkness and so far that part is going very well. We are quite pleased with the collaboration.

You named your sophomore album, “Dödens Makt”, which is translated to English as “The Power Of Death”. What I noticed was that your debut album’s title is “The Angel Of Light”, quite a contradiction you created there isn’t it? Or perhaps is it a continuation or a development in a much larger story?

"The Angel Of Light" refers to Lucifer and was taken from a line in the lyrics for a song called "The Will Of god" , one of my favorites on the debut album. So it is a bit more sinister than it might sound like. The title was chosen by the band after guitarist Joel left. Joel wrote a majority of the music and all the lyrics except for one on "The Angel Of Light". I never really discussed the lyrics with him and can't really speak to much of their meaning except for what's obvious when you read them.

After his departure from Burning Darkness it fell upon me to write lyrics for what turned out to be Dödens Makt. I wanted to keep the same vibe in the lyrics as those on the previous album, but instead of losing faith, the Devil and the destructive nature of man I went my own way thematically. There's still a bit of depression and suicide in the lyrics, but I introduced some Nordic folklore elements and tried to express the anti-Christianity through a pagan lens instead of a Satanist ditto.

Lyrically, how does the entire album inspire, or better said empowers, your selected title?

The title "Dödens Makt" comes from the last song on the album "Dödens Makt Är Stor" ("The Power Of Death Is Great"). Choosing a title wasn't easy, but we all agreed on this one. The song itself is about the insignificance of life and inevitability of death. Death is a constant theme in most of the lyrics (how original), and the title could maybe also be interpreted as a celebration of the glory of death (black) metal.

Other than being anti-Christian by essence, as virtually the mass of early 90s Black Metal, which you follow adamantly, you also took your attention to other darkened realms of the human reality and imagination. What kind of features are those? How do you find a connection between the anti-religion dogma to these themes?

There are themes in some songs that just seemed to fit the music without having much to do with a larger idea of fitting it all together. Sulphurous Wrath, for example is more horror inspired. A bit like my only lyrical contribution to the debut album, "The Beyond", but not limited to inspiration from just one movie. Other than that I used the heathen themes to tie together the anti-Christian lyrics with those inspired by creatures from folklore. Hatred for what Christianity did to us and how we would've been better off had it never gotten a grip on our lands. The first song uses imagery from Norse mythology as a weapon against invading religions. Then several other lyrics are dark tales from folklore basically.

Another connection that is interesting. How do you find the album’s theme in correspondence with the ongoing pandemic? Are you stating a sort of discomfort or rather anguish towards what is going on?

From what I recall most not all of the lyrics were written, at least partially before the pandemic got going. Maybe we missed the chance of being contemporary and writing about current events, but that's not really what a black metal band should do I think. However, in the beginning of the pandemic when it was said that the virus came from a Chinese man eating a bat, it led to some jokes in the band since we use a bat as a symbol for Burning Darkness, on merch and on the cover artwork. If it counts that our mascot bat, the "Chiropteran Demon", is featured in the lyrics of two songs on the album then there's a connection I guess.

Even though Burning Darkness carved on its skin the early 90s Black Metal legacy, it appears that “Dödens Makt'' displays additional layers on top of the classic extremity, barging in with echoes or progression. How would you say that the band evolved, without the use of trends as you stated, while this album was in the making?

The musical change, or evolution of the band is due to the lineup change between albums. As I mentioned previously, Joel, who wrote most of the songs on "The Angel Of Light" left the band. This lead to the other guitarist, Daniel, taking on a larger role as a composer this time around. He made a couple of songs for the debut. This time, he and Ghiaur wrote pretty much half of the songs basic structure each. Their styles complement each other well I think. Ghiaur's music is a bit more traditional and Daniel's a bit more progressive.

When you put “Dödens Makt'' on the pedestal, in comparison to various of Black Metal albums that are released, and there are quite a lot out there, what makes the album uncanny?

It's hard for me to compare to other new releases, I don't really listen to much new black metal. It would be easier to let one of the guys who actually composed the music respond to this. I think they made a great job of giving the music an eerie feel while also making it catchy and headbanging-friendly. Hopefully my lyrics help convey that same feeling, at least that's my intention. That and trying to deliver some nasty vocals.

Generally speaking, how do you find the progression of the early 90s of Black Metal nowadays? It has been noticed that things changed both in sound and the forging of songs. What is your input on that?

I'm getting old and prefer reminiscing of the good old days. I sometimes find new stuff that agrees with me, but a lot of band just sounds strange to me. I'm happy when band's sound like they honor the legacy of for example Dissection, Necrophobic or Unanimated.

How would you say that “Dödens Makt'' developed you as a songwriter and also as a vocalist? What did you find about your abilities while working on this album? Has your perception of how to approach a song changed a bit in contrast to the previous album?

On the last album I was pretty out of shape singing wise. I had been on a ten-year hiatus from playing in a band and just recently gotten back into it. I had just recorded EPs with my projects Mortifera and Svartur Dödur, but those were studio bands without an ambition to play live. Certainly not doing regular rehearsals.

I was asked to rejoin Burning Darkness (I was a member 2000-2003) when the album was recorded and just the vocals were missing. The recording was a bit stressful, because the songs were very new to me. Had I been rehearsing with the band longer or been a part of the writing process it would certainly have gone easier. It turned out ok I guess, but on Dödens Makt I'm way better. A couple of years of rehearsing, playing live and doing small tours with Burning Darkness and my death metal band Circle Of Chaos gave my voice a good foundation for the recording. A nice feature of our band practice room, where we recorded the vocals was the low ceiling. I could grab onto the ceiling tiles when doing the long screams without having to concern myself with my legs giving way! Also, on the album closer I tried a little bit of clean singing for the first time. I'll let others decide if it sounds awful or not.

In a way, you preserved some of the sound of the old, and the album sounds, at least partially, as if it was rehashed from the old days of the subgenre. I guess that it was on purpose in order to preserve the magic. How would you describe the work on the album’s sound? Who produced and engineered the album?

I'm glad you think so! The recording and mixing was done by our guitarist Daniel who handled the same duties on the last album. It was his idea to have this type of sound. He did it by himself and kept sending his work in progress for us to review so we could be involved in the process.

 “She Who Dwells Beyond The Branches”, other than having a mysterious type of title, as if it was taken from a line from a horror movie, is rich with changes of tempos, melodies and overall atmosphere. What can you tell about the creation of this track?

I think it was this track that led me onto the path of folklore-themed lyrics that also are on Neonaticide and Draugr. When Ghiaur presented the song I found the melody very beautiful and ominous. It made me think of 90's ruffle shirt and top hat black metal. A guilty pleasure of mine. Especially totally unknown but great band Furia from Sweden. Check out their demo "Sagor", it's a masterpiece! I wanted the song to be about a mysterious woman, so I wrote about the Skogsrå. A Skogsrå is a female forest creature that uses her beauty to lure men into the woods. I originally meant to call the song "Lady Of The Forest", but our drummer Germán refused. He thought it sounded to much like a Cradle Of Filth title. Definitely not trve enough! Thus I changed it.

“Dödens Makt är Stor” is one of those songs that are positioned as the last in the tracklist, summarizing a release, projecting the band’s whole abilities in a single musical piece. This track however does more than that. It also portrays different faces of the band that were possibly minimized. There is a general feeling of atmospheric post Black Metal along with the ferocity of the former. What is your input about this track and its importance to the album?

This track turned out great in my opinion. It was actually the first song to be written for the album. I think we started playing around with it back in 2016, before the release of The Angel Of Light and it hasn't changed a whole lot since. I haven't thought about it in terms of genre-bending, but I do like some post black stuff, like Alcest. I just thought Daniel had composed a really good song with lots of variation. It was fun to record a song that gave me opportunity to use a lot of different vocal styles that don't usually fit with the music of Burning Darkness. I think the song both summarizes the album and maybe hints of things to come in the band's future.

With the live scene slowly opening up, are there plans for the band to take on stages this year?

I have a feeling that the live scene is going to be very crowded as society goes back to normal. We hope to carve us a spot in there somewhere. As for now we only have one small gig booked late this autumn in the northern suburbs of Stockholm, where we're based. Maybe something more will show up. We are eager to play live!

Per, I wish to thank you for the well done work on a great release and of course many thanks for the interview for your time. May you have only fortunes with this release. All the best.

It's been my pleasure. Thanks!



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Edited 06 December 2022

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